On August 11, Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura detected a bright object very close to the Sun. No one had seen it before because the object was lost in the glare of our star. And, exciting news, it turned out to be a brand-new bright comet! On August 15, the Minor Planet Center officially confirmed the discovery and named the comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura).
What does comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) look like now?
The comet is currently in the constellation Gemini. It has reached a magnitude of 10.8 and is gradually getting brighter. The comet’s growing tail is now nearly 8' long. C/2023 P1 can be seen in an amateur 6-inch telescope for a few hours before dawn.
What does the name of C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) mean?
The name of the comet contains data about where and when it was first seen:
- The letter C indicates a non-periodic comet — comets of this type originate from the Oort cloud and may pass through the Solar System only once or take from 200 to thousands of years to orbit the Sun;
- “2023 P1” means the comet was discovered in 2023, in the first half of August (this corresponds to the letter P in the IAU comet naming system), and was the first such object discovered in the same period;
- “Nishimura” means the discovery was made by Hideo Nishimura, the Japanese astronomer.
How to find C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) in the sky?
- Launch the app and tap the magnifying glass icon in the bottom-left part of the main screen.
- Type “C/2023 P1” in the search field and tap the target button near the fitting result. The app will show you the comet’s position on the sky map.
- Tap the compass button or point your device at the sky. The image on the screen will adjust to your sky in real time.
- Follow the arrow until you see the comet on the screen. You will find the comet in the real sky in the direction the app shows you.
Where to find C/2023 P1 (Nishimura)?
Here is the path of the comet for the nearest future:
- August 26: C/2023 P1 (mag 9.2) enters the constellation Cancer.
- September 5: C/2023 P1 (mag 6.9) enters the constellation Leo.
- September 7: C/2023 P1 (mag 6.3) passes 0°16' away from the star Ras Elased Australis (mag 3.0) in the constellation Leo.
- September 9: C/2023 P1 (mag 5.6) passes 0°20' away from the star Adhafera (mag 3.4) in the constellation Leo.
- September 15: C/2023 P1 (mag 3.7) passes 0°10' away from the star Denebola (mag 2.1) in the constellation Leo.
- September 16: C/2023 P1 (mag 3.4) enters the constellation Virgo.
- September 18: C/2023 P1 (mag 3.2) reaches perihelion in the constellation Virgo.
- September 22: C/2023 P1 (mag 4.3) passes 1°30' away from the star Porrima (mag 2.7) in the constellation Virgo.
When is the best time to see C/2023 P1 (Nishimura)?
The comet should reach magnitude 4.9 on September 11. This is bright enough to observe C/2023 P1 with the naked eye. So, take a chance! The comet will be seen for a few hours before dawn in the constellation Leo. It will become even brighter over the next few days as it reaches perihelion, but also be closer to the Sun in the sky, making it more difficult to spot.
C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) at perihelion on September 18
On September 18, C/2023 P1 will reach its closest point to the Sun, called perihelion. It will be really close to our star, at a distance of about 0.9 AU from it. At that time, C/2023 P1 could be as bright as 3.2 magnitude, which is visible to the naked eye. The comet will be located only around 12° away from the Sun in the sky, so you won’t have much time to observe it. Spot C/2023 P1 at sunset in the constellation Virgo. People in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best view. There is still a possibility that the comet will fall apart as it reaches its closest point to the Sun, so keep following it.
By mid-October, C/2023 P1 will fade back to telescope visibility as it moves away from the Sun. In a few months, by February 2024, another bright comet, C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS), will enter the scene.
The newly discovered C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) comet may reach naked-eye visibility by mid-September. Don’t miss your chance to see it! Download a stargazing app like Star Walk 2 or Sky Tonight that can help you find the comet in the sky even right now.
Text Credit: Vito Technology, Inc.