A rare green comet that was only discovered as recently as August could be visible in Australian skies later this month. Scientifically dubbed C/2023 P1, the comet will be seen over Earth for the first time in 437 years. Almost a kilometre wide, experts believe you could see it with your own eyes in a matter of days.
The comet has been named Nishimura after Japanese space photographer Hideo Nishimura, who first observed it on August 12 in the night sky with a standard digital camera, according to NASA. Since then, it has increased in brightness and its path across the inner Solar System has been determined. Comets are referred to as “dirty snowballs” because they’re made up of rock, dirt and ice. However, it is Nishimura’s high concentration of gas that gives it its green colour.
When will Comet Nishimura be visible in Australia?
Comets are unpredictable and because Nishimura is travelling closer to the Sun rather than Mercury, it is possible that it could get destroyed by the intense heat. But there is a chance that Nishimura could survive and brighten unexpectedly, making it visible to the naked eye. This celestial event is truly a rare one occurring only once every 430 to 440 years “which means the last time it passed close to the Sun (and might have come closer to Earth) was around the year 1590, before the invention of the telescope,” Dr. Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies said. This also means it won’t be visible until at least 2458.
In Australia, the best chance to see the comet will be between September 20 and 27 when the comet’s head will set around one hour after the sun. It will be farthest from the Sun on September 23.
How to see the once-in-a-lifetime comet
This is likely our one and only chance to see the comet so experts have offered a few handy tips to ensure your best chance at catching a glimpse.
To see it before it disappears, you’ll need to wake up before the sun rises. Look to the eastern horizon in the time before dawn and find the Leo constellation. To get the best view, you’ll need the help of binoculars or a small telescope. Check out this list of stargazing apps by Space if you want some extra tools to assist you in locating the comet.
Read more about Comet Nishimura on the NASA website.