Home Science & Technology what it is, how to see it and when it will return: NPR

what it is, how to see it and when it will return: NPR

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what it is, how to see it and when it will return: NPR

Learn about Comet Nishimura.

Dan Bartlett/NASA


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Dan Bartlett/NASA


Learn about Comet Nishimura.

Dan Bartlett/NASA

A newly discovered green comet is flying past Earth and is now visible for the first time in over 400 years.

Comet Nishimura was discovered on August 11 by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura and named after him.

Nishimura first noticed this while taking long exposure photos with a Canon digital camera and a telephoto lens.

What is this?

When our solar system was formed, huge amounts of debris were left behind. So what we see as a comet is a piece of dirty ice left over from that time.

Comets usually remain far from the Sun, frozen and impossible to see. But every now and then someone will get close to the sun.

As the sun’s heat begins to evaporate the icy material that makes up the comet, the dirt and dust inside it is released, leaving behind the comet’s tail – what we see from Earth.

In the age of automated telescopes, Nishimura’s discovery is no small feat.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for amateur astronomers to scan the sky and see something that is not on the star chart. But that’s exactly what Nishimura did,” said astronomer Andrew Fraknoi All things considered.

“He discovered the comet before any of the automated systems in space discovered it. “It’s a real tribute to his perseverance.”

View of Nishimura in L’Aquila, Italy, September 7, 2023.

Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images


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Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How can I see this?

Not easy.

Currently, it is only visible from the northern hemisphere. You need to be up before sunrise and look towards the eastern horizon – so find a place where you can see very low on the horizon.

The best chance to see this comet is Tuesday morning, when it is closest to Earth. It will be closest to the Sun on September 17, after which it will approach and be visible from the southern hemisphere.

To find it, look in the constellation Leo. To get a good view, you will need binoculars or a small telescope.

If you’re serious about seeing the comet, Fraknoi recommends checking Sky & Telescope for star charts to help you do so.

In the photos, the comet appears to be burning a bright lime green color. But Fraknoi says don’t look for something green in the sky.

“All you see with the naked eye is a blurry white glow,” he said. “Green only appears in photos.”

When was this comet last seen on Earth?

Scientists have determined that it takes this comet about 430 years to orbit the Sun.

So it was last visible from Earth in the late 16th century – before Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope at the sky.

It will be visible from Earth again in the 1450s.

So if you miss out this time, you’ll have to wait a while until your next chance.

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