The brightest comet of 2023 is still intact after making a hairpin turn around the sun over the weekend.
Comet C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) was first spotted last month by Hideo Nishimura, an amateur astronomer in Japan, using only a digital camera setup and a lot of skill. It made its close pass by the sun on Sept. 17 before being flung back out to deep space.
Under dark skies, the comet is easily visible with the naked eye. Unfortunately, as it recedes to the outer limits of the solar system, it is best viewed low on the horizon just after sunset, when it can be washed out by fading daylight.
A number of sky watchers and astrophotographers are reporting having luck imaging it using a digital camera on a tripod taking exposures that last at least a few seconds.
However, it’s encouraging that Nishimura survived its encounter with the sun and there is always a chance it could brighten as it passes by Earth’s orbit.
How to catch the comet
This comet is trickier to see than other bright comets of the recent pass due to its low angle to the horizon, which is really a reflection of how close it passed by the sun. This is why it’s been most visible before sunrise on its way toward the sun and now after sunset as it recedes into space.
“It’s really best seen with binoculars or a telescope,” Alison Klesman, who holds a doctorate in astronomy, wrote for Astronomy.com. “But through those optics, it will dazzle.”
You can search for the comet in the constellation Leo an hour or two before sunrise. You can use apps like Stellarium, Star Walk or TheSkyLive to help locate it.