Another really bright comet is whizzing past Earth next year, astronomers say

If you missed the Bright Green Comet last month because of cloudy skies obscuring the view from Texas, do not fret. An even brighter comet is reportedly swinging by Earth next year.

Dubbed C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS), the frozen ball of dust and rock was first discovered by astronomers at the Purple Mountain Observatory in China on Jan. 9 and later detected by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in South Africa on Feb. 22, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. The center officially named the new celestial object on Feb. 28. Prediscovery images were also captured by a telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California on Dec. 12, 2022. 

Per EarthSky, C/2023 A3 is traveling at 180,610 mph and is currently between the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter. Initial data suggests that the comet completes an orbit around the Sun every 80,660 years and its closest approach to the Sun—which is known as perihelion—will be on Sept. 28, 2024. This will be followed by its closest approach to Earth on Oct. 13, 2024, as it appears on the other side of the Sun, passing through the constellations Serpens Caput and Ophiuchus in the evening sky. It’s important to note that these specific dates could change upon further observations. 

From our view from Earth, the new comet will outshine the Green Comet, which flew past our planet for the first time in 50,000 years in February and had a peak brightness at around +4.6. Should C/2023 A3 withstand the heat of the Sun (there’s a possibility it could disintegrate from its smoldering rays), the comet could potentially reach a magnitude of -5 at its brightest—similar to the brightness of Venus. That’s also much brighter than NEOWISE, a comet that grazed the Earth in 2020 and reached a peak magnitude 1.

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