Washington: Look to the Sky for a Newly Discovered Comet
Stargazers have already caught sight of the newly discovered, green comet racing across the sky recently.
The comet, referred to as Nishimura, is named after an amateur astronomer who first photographed it about a month ago, and will pass nearest to Earth today (September 12th 2023) before reaching its closest distance to the sun on September 17th.
After that, the comet will slingshot around our sun, careening back into deeper space, not to be seen again by human eyes on Earth until its return in another 435 years. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The comet was seen this past weekend when it appeared near the constellation Leo before sunrise. According to the website EarthSky, Nishimura may still be visible this week, but will be slightly harder to see, as it’s appearing in the sky closer to sunrise when light can obscure it.
Astronomers believe that Nishimura likely originated in the Oort Cloud (a far-away collection of icy objects on the edge of the solar system). As Comet Nishimura travels closer to the sun, it will continue to increase in brightness. That is, until September 17th. After that date, it will become more difficult to see as it falls below the horizon.
The comet is estimated to pass within 78 million miles of Earth today (again, Tuesday, September 12th), the closest it will come to our planet.
Those of us in Washington state will likely be unable to see Comet Nishimura after September 13th, so this is your last chance tonight. Get your good set of binoculars out and gaze near the constellation of Leo just before sunrise for the celestial treat.