Hideo Nishimura of Kakegawa, Japan, was photographing the night sky on August 11 and 12, 2023, when he captured a new comet that now bears his name. Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura is currently moving in front of the constellation Gemini the Twins, low in the morning sky. The comet was hidden in sunlight before Nishimura captured it in his images. It will continue to brighten as it closes in on the Sun, bringing it into binocular range. But will it be bright enough to see with the naked eye?
Although estimates indicate that the comet may be bright enough to see without optical aid, at its brightest the comet will be very close to where the Sun is in the sky. Thus, the comet would likely be difficult to detect against sunlight or daylight. However, during the last days of August and the first days of September, we have the opportunity to try to spot the celestial visitor using binoculars, a small telescope, or long-exposure photos before it approaches the Sun. And of course, we can always expect an explosion while it’s still a way from the Sun.
Current observed levels are approx 9.2, which means people can see it using telescopes in dark skies. other observation Report that the comet’s tail is eight arcminutes long. The comet should be brighter and the tail will grow as it gets closer to the Sun. The comet will be at its brightest in September when it is closest to the Sun and Earth.
Comet Nishimura is hurtling toward the Sun
By August 15-16, 2023, the comet was already crossing Earth’s orbit as it approached the Sun. Comet Nishimura is traveling so fast that it will reach the orbit of Venus in just a few days … by August 27, 2023.
Sky enthusiasts can observe the comet with a small telescope for the rest of August (see charts below). It’s best to try to see it now, as it may not survive its approach to the Sun. This is due to the extremely close pass of our star. Comet Nishimura will pass closer to the Sun than Mercury’s orbit. If it survives until August, Comet Nishimura will become a binocular object on the first morning of September. Then, observers with an unobstructed view on the east-northeast horizon can get a good binocular view of Comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) around 10 September around 45 minutes before sunrise.
New comet trail
With this new comet, many observations have not been made and the path is still being defined. As of August 21, 2023, NASA/JPL calculated new orbits indicating that Comet Nishimura orbits the Sun every 202 years, suggesting that it is a “local” comet in our Solar System and not an interstellar comet.
Closest approaches to Earth and the Sun are also updated each day. The closest approach to Earth will occur on September 12, 2023, when the comet will pass 78 million miles (125 million km) from Earth. Perihelion – or closest approach to the Sun – will occur on September 17, 2023, passing 27 million miles (43.7 million km) from our star.
Some details may be updated as new observations allow scientists to better refine the comet’s orbit.
Comet Nishimura travels through the constellation of the zodiac. It will move from Gemini to Cancer in late August and early September. It will cross Leo in mid-September and then move into Virgo in the second half of September.
How bright will the comet be?
Estimating the brightness of comets is always challenging because they are so unpredictable. Although Comet Nishimura may be bright enough to see to the unaided eye, it may break up as it approaches the Sun. But here’s an estimate of how bright the comet will be on a given date and where to find it.
Starwalk The September 11 comet is estimated at magnitude 4.9 – within the range of the unaided eye. On the morning of September 11, you can look for the comet before dawn. The first object you’ll notice in the eastern sky is a crescent moon, followed by bright Venus nearby. The comet will be close to the pair and close to the star Adhafera (Zeta Leonis) in Leo’s crescent (the retrograde question mark). Remember that bright sunlight coming from below the horizon will make it incredibly challenging to see anything in the sky.
The comet’s closest approach to Earth is on September 12, when it is 0.85 AU away. At this time, the comet transitions from a morning object to an evening object. On September 15, the comet will pass just 10 arcminutes from Leo, Denebola’s second-brightest star. But the pair will be only 12 degrees from the Sun, making it difficult to catch them before they set themselves after sunset.
StarWalk estimates the comet to be at magnitude 3.2 at perihelion — when the comet is closest to the Sun — on September 17. Again, when the comet is bright and close to the Sun, it will be harder to see because it will be closer to the Sun. Even in the dome of our sky.
Map for the new comet C/2023 P1
Saying goodbye to Comet Nishimura
As the comet moves away from the Sun, it will dim in brightness. By mid-October it will be further (20 degrees) from the Sun in our sky but fainter. It will be in daylight or below the horizon most of the time. How long can you follow Nishimura as he exits?
Bottom line: A new comet, Nishimura, may be bright enough to see unaided in September. Learn how to watch it here.