Witnessing rare events takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the night sky. While it may be worth watching on any evening, especially during annual events like meteor showers, the chance of catching a glimpse of something that may not be visible again in our lifetimes is usually enough to motivate people to go out and look up.
And if you’re hoping to do some more stargazing before the hot summer weather fades, you might want to clear your schedule. Indeed, a bright green comet will be visible tomorrow when it reaches its closest point to Earth. Read on to learn how you can see it for yourself before it disappears.
Our latest visitor also generated a bit of excitement due to the rarity of his visit to Earth. Scientists have estimated that Comet Nishimura is likely about 430 to 440 years old, making this flyby a first-time viewing. Indeed, “the last time it passed close to the sun (and could have come close to Earth) was around 1590, before the invention of the telescope,” said Paul Chodas, PhD, director of the Center for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California told CNN in an email. “We don’t know if it became bright enough to be seen with the naked eye at the time.” The comet will reach another milestone on September 12 when it reaches its closest point to Earth on its journey to the center of the solar system. It’s expected to get even brighter along the way, reaching at least about the same brightness as the North Star – and even if it doesn’t stand out like some other nearby visitors, it will likely stay impressive.
Even though it’s our little corner of the universe, the vastness of our solar system makes it surprisingly difficult to stay on top of everything that’s going on. And it’s not just about learning more about our neighboring planets and the Moon through missions to their surfaces: scientists also only recently discovered comet Nishimura, which is currently visible in the night sky . The passing object has become something of a fascination since it was first observed by amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura while taking photos of the night sky on August 10. And although some scientists initially questioned its ability to survive its approach to the sun, it lived up to expectations by making it a spectacle for astronomers around the world. “People are very excited because comets visible to the naked eye are not that unusual, but not very common,” said Quanzhi Ye, a researcher at the University of Maryland who studies comets and asteroids, in Washington. Post. He added that the short time between discovery and visibility is “like receiving a Christmas present on short notice.”
However, you may not want to delay your Nishimura comet search project. Although the object will likely become brightest when it reaches its closest point to the center of the solar system on September 18, its trajectory will also make it harder to spot. “Every day of the week, the comet gets a little closer to the sun, the time window narrows and the comet gets even closer to the horizon,” Chodas told CNN. “It’s not going to be an easy comet to see, unless you’ve seen comets before.” Conditions will also become more difficult as the comet passes Earth and will likely be more visible from the Southern Hemisphere. “In theory, it could be accessible in the evening sky a few days later, but it will still be quite close to the sun in the sky and will be buried in bright twilight,” said Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Comet Hale. -Bopp and founder and president of the Earthrise Institute, told CNN. “Unless the brightness gets a little brighter than expected, it probably won’t be visible.”
The comet fleeting viewing opportunity makes it even more important to prepare yourself for success while searching for it in the night sky. Your best chance will be to get up fairly early, using the hour and a half before sunrise to stargaze, Vishnu Reddy, PhD, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told the New York Times. In addition to getting away from the bright city lights, it’s also best to have a clear view of the eastern horizon. Reddy says finding a place with an ocean view, on top of a mountain, or even in a high-rise building can be helpful. Reddy then suggests looking for Venus just above the horizon once you find a vantage point. Comet Nishimura will appear to the lower left of the planet as a streak in the sky. The object will not appear green to the naked eye as in photographs, but you can improve your vision by carrying a pair of binoculars. And while it may not be a “giant comet,” Reddy adds that you can be happy to know that it won’t be visible on Earth again until around 2458.
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