How to view Comet Nishimura infographic
Graphic shows where to see Comet Nishimura in the night sky.


Comet Nishimura makes closest approach to Earth

By Ninian Carter

September 11, 2023 - Stargazers have a rare opportunity to see the newly discovered comet Nishimura with the naked eye, as it speeds past the constellation of Leo at a distance of 125 million kilometres (78m miles).

Astronomy fans in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying a bright new comet formally called C/2023 P1 – also known as “Comet Nishimura” after Hideo Nishimura, the Japanese photographer who discovered it on August 12, 2023.

The ball of dust and ice will be closest to Earth on Tuesday, September 12, at a distance of 0.85 AU (Astronomical Unit, a length equal to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), and will be best viewed just before dawn for a few days. It may also be visible just after sunset, but its close proximity to the Sun may limit its impact.

Nishimura is continuing a path into the inner solar system on its way toward perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the Sun), which it will reach on September 17, as it swings around our star at a distance of just 0.23 AU — 40% closer to the Sun than the planet Mercury.

To see the comet, go to a location where you can clearly see the eastern horizon an hour or so before sunrise. To the lower left of Venus, passing midway through the constellation Leo, you should see a bright orb with possibly a tail trailing upwards. It may be visible again in the west, an hour after sunset, again in the constellation Leo.

September 15 is likely the last day Northern Hemisphere observers will be able to see Nishimura. It won’t return to Earth for another 400 years.

PUBLISHED: 11/09/2023; STORY: Graphic News