The Nishimura comet, discovered just a month ago by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura, will be visible over the weekend, with a simple pair of binoculars or even with the naked eye. However, you’ll need to be in a very dark, starry environment free from light pollution. It is a rocky and icy body, and the exact dimensions are still unknown. It is named after the Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura, who first observed it on August 11th.
C/2023 P1: that’s the code name of the comet that will reach its closest distance to Earth (at 125 million kilometers) on September 12th, nestled in the constellation Leo. The closest distance to the Sun (43 million kilometers), perihelion, will be reached on September 17th in the constellation Virgo.
The peak visibility should be guaranteed during the upcoming weekend, between Saturday, September 9th, and Sunday, September 10th, before dawn, as explained by experts. “It has a long-period orbit with its last close approach to the Sun dating back 437 years,” explained Nicolas Biver, a researcher at CNRS at the Paris-PSL Observatory.
Even though no traces of this icy visitor’s last passage have been found in astronomical archives, clarified the astrophysicist. When comets (celestial bodies from the cold regions of the solar system) approach the Sun, the ice within their nucleus sublimates, releasing a long trail of dust that reflects light.
And it is precisely these “shining tails” that can be observed from Earth. Nishimura’s ‘tails’, unlike other comets, are green because this celestial object contains more gas than dust.
“The best thing to do is to look at the sky before dawn (around 6:00 AM in France, and also in Italy), towards the northeast, to the left of Venus (commonly known as the Shepherd’s Star), in a clear, pollution-free sky,” advised the researcher.