Keep a lookout. A newly discovered comet is swinging through our cosmic neighborhood. It hasn’t visited Earth’s neck of the woods in more than 400 years.
The ice ball will show up in the sky this week or next. Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere should be able to spot it.
The comet is about a half a mile in size. Scientists guess it will sweep past Earth on September 12. Don’t worry. It won’t get too close. It will still be about 78 million miles from our planet.
To see the comet, you’ll have to get up early. Look toward the northeastern horizon about one and a half hours before dawn. The comet will brighten as it gets closer to the Sun. But it will drop lower in the sky, making it tricky to spot. It will be visible, but very faint.
“So you really need a good pair of binoculars to pick it out and you also need to know where to look,” says Paul Chodas. Mr. Chodas manages NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
A few days later, on September 17, the comet will come close to the Sun—even closer than Mercury is. Then it will zoom right out of our Solar System. (That is, if the Sun doesn’t burn it up!)
After next week, the comet will likely not be visible anymore. It will get lost in the glare of the Sun.
Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi says the comet looks amazing. It has “a long, highly structured tail.” That makes it “a joy to image with a telescope,” he says.
The comet has a name. It is the Nishimura Comet. It got that title from the amateur Japanese astronomer who discovered it.
The object last visited Earth about 430 years ago, Mr. Chodas says. That’s about a decade or two before Galileo invented the telescope. People come and go. They invent and discover. The world changes. But God stays the same. He has been controlling comets since the beginning of time.
Imagine: Who will see Nishimura next time? Maybe your great, great, great, great grandkids!
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the Earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. — Psalm 90:2