April 22, 2024


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The newly discovered comet Nishimura will soon approach Earth

The newly discovered comet Nishimura will soon approach Earth

Larry Wasserman/Matthew Knight/Dave Schleicher/Lowell Observatory

Lowell Observatory astronomer Dr. Larry Wasserman captured an image of Comet Nishimura using the Lowell Discovery Telescope (4.3 meter diameter) Wednesday morning during twilight.

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The newly discovered comet will be visible at times as it passes near Earth next week. But discovering it will require some knowledge.

Japanese space photographer Hideo Nishimura first noticed the comet in early August when he was taking pictures of the night sky, according to the American “space” website. EarthSky.
Since then, the celestial body has grown in brightness as it moves through the inner solar system in orbit around the sun.

The comet will reach its closest distance to Earth on Tuesday, when it will reach a distance of 78 million miles (125 million kilometers), which means it will likely be seen within the next five days.

It will come very close to the Sun, passing within 21 million miles (about 34 million kilometers) of the star on September 17, according to Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp and founder and president of the Earthrise Institute.

Nishimura completes one orbit approximately every 430 to 440 years, “which means that the last time it passed close to the Sun (and possibly approached the Earth) was around 1590, before the invention of the telescope,” says Dr. Paul Chodas. The director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, wrote in an email. “We don’t know if it became bright enough to see with the naked eye at that time.”

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No comets have been recorded during this time frame that appear to correspond to Nishimura, but they would have had to be very bright to be seen, Hill said.

The comet is barely bright enough to be visible from Earth because of the distance and will move near the horizon, so binoculars are the best way to see it, Chodas said. Dark skies away from city lights provide ideal viewing.

Sky and telescope He shared charts that could help sky watchers spot the comet.

If you’re trying to distinguish a comet from other objects in the night sky, keep in mind that a comet’s tail will always point away from the sun because sunlight is constantly pushing up tiny dust particles, said Dave Schleicher, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory. In Arizona.

Schleicher said that while the comet appears green in images due to the presence of diatomic carbon, it will appear almost colorless or slightly pink through binoculars, as sunlight reflects off dust grains, which are smaller than talcum powder particles.

Manuel Romano/NoorPhoto/Getty Images

Comet Nishimura can be seen as a faint green dot in the sky above L’Aquila, Italy, on September 7.

For those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, Chodas recommends finding a clear view of the eastern and northeastern horizon about a half-hour before morning twilight. you can use Time and date To determine when morning twilight, also called civil twilight, occurs in your area.

He said: “Every day this week, the comet approaches the sun a little, the time window becomes narrower, and the comet approaches the horizon.” “This comet will not be easy to see, unless you have observed comets before.”

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The closer the comet is to the sun and the horizon, the more difficult it is to see.

On Wednesday, the comet will pass between the Earth and the sun.

“Theoretically, it might be reachable in the evening sky within a few days after that, but it will still be very close to the sun in the sky and will be buried in the bright twilight,” Hill said. “Unless it becomes brighter than expected, it will likely not be visible.”

Given how close Comet Nishimura is to the Sun, it is possible that extreme heat could destroy it.

“As the frozen ice heats up and turns into gases, the comet may disintegrate,” Chodas said. “It depends a lot on the size of the core, which we don’t know, since it’s surrounded by a ‘coma’, which is an atmosphere of gas and dust.”

But given that the comet has already survived at least one close approach to the sun, and likely more than that (although the comet’s age is unknown), Hale and other experts expect it to survive.

“If it survives its close pass, it will pass to the far side of the sun from Earth in early October, then appear in the morning sky in the Southern Hemisphere in November,” Hale said. “It may remain visible for many months afterward, although it will likely be a fairly faint object, and will continue to fade as it recedes from the Sun and Earth.”

After that, it will be more than 400 years before the comet passes near Earth again.

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If you miss your chance to see Comet Nishimura, several comets are expected to appear in the night sky over the next 16 months, Hale said.

Comet Pons Brooks will be closest to the sun in April, he said, and should be faintly visible with the naked eye in the evening sky for about a month or so before then. In June, Comet Olbers will approach the Sun and be visible with binoculars. Comet Tsuchinshan-Atlas, which was discovered in January, will be closest to the Sun in late September 2024 and will oscillate near Earth in mid-October 2024, potentially becoming very bright.