SAN FRANCISCO – A fast-moving comet streaking across the Northern Hemisphere’s early morning sky will be gone by early Tuesday morning, but there is only a short window when it can best be spotted.
The comet, discovered on August 12 by Japanese amateur Hideo Nishimura, will make its closest approach to Earth on September 12; it will then continue towards the sun.
When it reaches perihelion on September 17, it will never get closer than 75 million miles – too far away to be anything other than difficult to spot, but worth it for astronomy enthusiasts.
The best chance to take a look is during the 90 minutes before sunrise on Monday morning.
The best sky maps to locate it Monday morning are available at skyandtelescope.com or astronomy.com.
But those interested enough to look for a sky map will know that they are out of luck if they are not in the country, under a clear sky with an unobstructed view to the east-northeast, and before the colors of dawn cross the sky starting to clear up. .
Although there is no need to be away from the lights. Generally it will be in Leo, and it will be only a few finger widths above the horizon.
It is a marginal object to the naked eye, but binoculars will help when trying to spot it. If you notice a greenish glow, that is a carbon signature.
After orbiting the sun — if it isn’t torn apart by the close encounter — it won’t be visible from the Southern Hemisphere until later in the month.
So catch it while you can if you are a strong soul. And if you have clear skies near the Bay Area, far from the city lights, don’t forget to invite us all.
Or wait for the next time it comes around 2458. What an interesting world it will then shine.
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