Newly discovered comet could be visible above Kansas soon. Here’s when you could see it

Kansas stargazers may get the chance to see a “once-in-a-lifetime” sight in the skies this month, and there’s a chance they won’t even need a telescope.

Comet Nishimura was discovered Aug. 11 by Hideo Nishimura, an amateur astronomer from Japan, according to NASA. This is the astronomer’s third comet discovery, Space.com reports.

Comets are notoriously unpredictable in that they can sometimes be seen by the naked eye and other times viewers will need a telescope. An Aug. 21 article from NASA says while easy viewing can’t be guaranteed, “it currently seems like a good bet” the comet will become visible to the unaided eye at some point.

The comet will be closest to Earth Tuesday and closest to the sun Sunday, the Washington Post reports, and it has already been spotted from earth.

Tuesday night will likely be partly cloudy in Wichita with a low around 54 degrees, according to the National Weather Service’s local office. Residents can expect below-average temperatures this week, but might see a few more hot summer days before fall settles in.

What is a comet?

Comets are “cosmic snowballs” made from frozen gasses, rock and dust orbiting the sun, NASA says. They can be the size of a small town when frozen, and heat up and spew gasses and dust when they get close to the sun.

“There are likely billions of comets orbiting our Sun in the Kuiper Belt and even more distant Oort Cloud,” NASA’s website says.

The number of known comets is 3,886, according to NASA.

When’s the best time to see the comet?

Your best shot at seeing Comet Nishimura will be between 1.5 to 2 hours before sunrise, according to Space.com. You may need binoculars or a telescope to see it.

Although Comet Nishimura will be closest to Earth Tuesday, it may be easier to see when it is closest to the sun Sunday, the Washington Post reports.

When choosing your stargazing spot, Space.com recommends looking for a remote but public area without much light pollution and gazing to the east or northeast of the sky.

If you don’t own a telescope but are hoping to catch a view of the comet, you could visit Lake Afton Public Observatory during their normal business hours from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Reservations can be made online for the observatory, but they are not required. Admission is $8 for those 14 years and older, $4 for youth ages 5 to 13 and $7 for adults 65 and older. Immediate family pricing is available for $20.

The comet may not survive its trip around the sun, the Washington Post reports, but if it does it will likely next be visible in the year 2457.