Bright Comet Nishimura is now visible in the Predawn Sky

Bright Comet Nishimura is now visible in the Predawn Sky

The most promising comet of 2023 will pass very close to our planet next week and is almost bright enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) was first observed last month by Hideo Nishimura, a Japanese astronomer, using only a digital camera and a lot of techniques. It is set to make a close pass to Earth on September 12, and circle the sun on September 17 before being thrown back into deep space.

The comet is tricky to spot now because it’s best seen in dark skies, but its location should be viewed 60 to 90 minutes before dawn, when the sky isn’t completely dark. A number of sky watchers and astronomers report being lucky to imagine using a digital camera on a tripod taking scenes that last at least a few seconds.

Nishimura is expected to grow larger as it approaches over the next few days, if it survives long.

So far the comet has encountered serious opposition in the form of blasts of charged particles and plasma from the exploding sun. Observers such as astronomer Michael Jaeger (see above) watched Saturday as a solar storm enveloped the comet and appeared to blow off part of its tail for a moment.

Here’s an amazing example captured by NASA in 2007 of Comet Encke’s short tail:

Comet Encke experienced a disconnection event in 2007.


“Researchers call this event a disconnection; it is caused by a CME (or solar wind stream) hitting the comet,” NASA astronomer Tony Phillips wrote on “Nishimura’s tail has grown back — but it may not last long. More CMEs are on the way.”

A CME stands for coronal mass ejection, which is an explosion from the outer layer of the sun that often accompanies a solar flare. Think of it as a powerful storm of powerful wind that sweeps through space and causes electrical chaos. This same force causes auroras to light up the sky when they collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere. It can also influence other objects in space, such as asteroids and comets.

The Sun is now growing towards the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, which means frequent flares and CMEs. At least two Phillips ejecta ejected from the sun’s corona on Tuesday, blasting away from the side of Comet Nishimura.

How to catch a comet

All this rough weather can be frustrating for sky watchers hoping to see the comet with the naked eye. Although the comet is still approaching Earth, now is a good time to start looking for it. Nishimura was expected to be bright enough to be seen quickly on September 8. North of the equator it will be visible near the horizon, making it difficult to find.

“It’s best seen with binoculars or a telescope,” Alison Klesman, PhD in astronomy, wrote for “But with these optics, it will be brighter.”

You can look for a comet in the constellation Leo an hour or two before sunrise. You can use apps like Stellarium, Star Walk or TheSkyLive to help find it.

It is very difficult to know what the future holds for a comet. They can travel centuries from the edge of the planet to make one revolution around the sun. At the same time, they are fragile objects with a tendency to break apart as they pass through the inner solar system. They have even been known to crash into Jupiter or the sun along the way. Dinosaurs may have come into contact with one another many millions of years ago.

So with all the commotion the sun has been sending up lately, it’s good to get up early and try to see Nishimura for yourself while it’s still out. Good luck!

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