If the skies clear in New Hampshire this weekend, stargazers will have a chance to observe Comet Nishimura before it disappears for another 400 years.
New Hampshire – Granite State skywatchers still have a few chances to glimpse a newly found green comet traveling along a route that will bring it close to Earth and the sun before disappearing for another 400 years or so.
Comet Nishimura, discovered on August 11 by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura, is already visible from Earth but will pass closest to us on Tuesday. However, the best time to see it may be Sunday when it is closest to the sun and at its brightest.
When We Can See It?
The National Weather Service predicts a 30 percent chance of showers and cloudiness on Saturday night.
The half-mile-wide comet will still be 78 million miles distant during its close approach to Earth. It can be seen with the naked eye, but “you really need a good pair of binoculars to pick it out, and you also need to know where to look,” according to Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
Look toward the northern horizon about an hour and a half before sunrise to observe the comet. The comet will be roughly 10 degrees above the horizon, near the constellation Leo, weather permitting. The comet will brighten as it approaches the sun, but it will fall lower in the sky, making it difficult to see.
On Sunday, the comet will pass closest to the sun—closer than Mercury—before quitting the solar system. That’s provided it doesn’t disintegrate when it buzzes the sun, however, Chodas says “it’s likely to survive its passage.”
The Virtual Telescope Project’s founder, Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi, told AP in an email that this week marks “the last, feasible chances” to see the comet from the Northern Hemisphere before it’s lost in the sun’s glare.
“The comet looks amazing right now, with a long, highly structured tail, and it’s a joy to image with a telescope,” he added of the unusual green comet.
Given all the professional sky surveys by large ground telescopes these days, it’s unusual for an amateur to detect a comet, Chodas said, adding, “This is Nishimura’s third find, so good for him.”
Chodas estimates that the comet last visited roughly 430 years ago. That was a few decades before Galileo invented the telescope.
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