Here’s how you can see it in the sky over the weekend

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With C/2023 P1, a green comet can once again be seen in the sky. But his observation is a race against time and the sun.

Frankfurt – It wasn’t that long ago that the green comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was visible in the sky as it flew past Earth. Now a green comet appears in the sky again – C/2023 P1 was discovered on August 12th by the Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura and named after its discoverer.

Comet Nishimura is currently rapidly approaching the sun – on September 17th it will reach its closest distance from the sun, the so-called perihelion. Nishimura will then be only about 34.5 million kilometers from the sun, and it is possible that the comet will disintegrate.

Comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) is seen early in the morning

Because Comet Nishimura is already very close to the Sun, observing it is difficult: it can currently be seen in the eastern sky early in the morning. The comet is getting a little brighter every day, but at the same time it is a little lower every day at dawn and will no longer be visible at dawn around September 13th because the sun is already too bright.

The green comet C/2023 P1 was named after its discoverer Hideo Nishimura. © dpa/NASA | Dan Bartlett

Comet Nishimura rises early in the morning in the northeast; its exact rising time changes slightly every day. The “morning star” Venus, which shines a little further east in the sky, can serve as orientation. The comet travels through the constellation Leo. With the naked eye, the comet can only be seen as a “star”, i.e. a point of light in the sky, but with binoculars or a telescope you can see more. With a camera with a focal length of 200 millimeters or more, you can also make the comet’s tail visible, it is said at the Association of Star Friends.

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Comets are “dirty snowballs” from the edge of the solar system

Comets come from the outermost solar system, a cold and distant region. These are celestial bodies that were left over from the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. That’s why comets are also considered “freezers” that can provide information about the early days of the solar system and the Earth. The celestial bodies are also called “dirty snowballs” because they consist of frozen gases that hold dust grains and organic molecules together.

When a comet approaches the sun, the gases sublimate and release the dust grains – a characteristic tail is created. Comets also leave trails of dust as they travel through space. If the Earth later flies through this, streams of shooting stars are created.

Comet behavior is difficult to predict

Predicting the behavior of comets is extremely difficult because they can change and break apart under the influence of the Sun’s heat. The next comet that is already known and that could potentially be seen with the naked eye is C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan ATLAS). In the fall of 2024 it could become so bright that it can be seen without any aids. (tab)

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