Yet another bright comet is heading toward Earth and this one is brighter than the green comet that wowed skywatchers a few weeks ago. The comet in question is called C/2023 A3, and was discovered back in January by astronomers at the Purple Mountain Observatory in China. The comet has also been seen in images captured by the Palomar Observatory.
The bright comet’s orbit is quite long, only passing around the Sun completely every 80,660 years. The comet’s closest approach to the Sun will happen in 2024. If it survives that approach, it will pass close to Earth on October 13, 2024. That’s still a long way off, but it should provide a good goal for many skywatchers in the coming weeks.
Astronomers say that the bright comet will outshine the Green Comet (C/2022 E3 (ZTF). That comet recently zipped past Earth for the first time in 50,000 years. Astronomers still aren’t even sure if it will make a return trip. But, knowing that an even brighter comet is heading this way is no doubt going to be exciting for skywatchers.
If the comet can handle the Sun’s warmth, astronomers believe it could reach a magnitude of -5 at its brightest. Just so you have an idea of how bright that is, the Sun is rated at a brightness of -26.7, while the Moon is -11. That means this bright comet could shine almost half as brightly as the Moon in the night sky. That’s very bright indeed.
Unfortunately, all we can do is wait to see just how well the comet survives its close approach to the Sun. We’ll know more about its possible survival, overall orbit, and size as it continues its trek through the solar system, making its closest approach to the Sun in the later months of next year before breezing past Earth.