Green comet to pass across Earth skies for first time in centuries

(NewsNation) — A newly discovered comet is swinging through our cosmic neighborhood for the first time in more than 400 years.

Stargazers across the Northern Hemisphere should catch a glimpse as soon as possible — either this week or early next — because it will be another 400 years before the wandering ice ball returns.

The comet, which is kilometer-sized, will sweep safely past Earth on Sept. 12, passing within 78 million miles.

Early risers should look toward the northeastern horizon about 1 1/2 hours before dawn — to be specific, less than 10 or so degrees above the horizon near the constellation Leo. The comet will brighten as it gets closer to the sun, but will drop lower in the sky, making it tricky to spot.

Although visible to the naked eye, the comet is extremely faint.

“So you really need a good pair of binoculars to pick it out and you also need to know where to look,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.

The comet will come closest to the sun — closer than Mercury is — on about Sept. 17 before departing the solar system. That’s assuming it doesn’t disintegrate when it buzzes the sun, though Chodas said: “It’s likely to survive its passage.”

Stargazers have been tracking the rare green comet ever since its discovery by an amateur Japanese astronomer in mid-August. Comet Nishimura now bears his name.

The comet last visited about 430 years ago, Chodas said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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