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Sky Gazers Alert! Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS Will Become Visible To Naked Eye In October

Observers in the northern hemisphere will have the best chance to see it just after sunset, with optimal visibility in October and November.

Gianluca Masi/The Virtual Telescope Project
Astronomer of the Virtual Telescope Project captured this image of Comet C/2023 A3 Tsunchinshan-ATLAS on May 5, 2024 from Ceccano, Italy. Photo: Gianluca Masi/The Virtual Telescope Project

A spectacular celestial event is on the horizon. Comet Tsuchinshan-ATLAS (C/2023 A3), dubbed the "comet of the year," is getting brighter and growing a tail. According to Sky and Telescope, this comet is currently travelling between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Although it's currently visible only with a large telescope in the constellation Virgo, it’s expected to become a naked-eye object later this year.

Following the recent total solar eclipse and unexpected solar “superstorms,” astronomers are hopeful that Comet A3 will be visible to the naked eye by October. This could make it the brightest comet seen in years, possibly as bright as Venus in the night sky.

Where and When to Witness the Cosmic Spectacle

Comet A3 follows a long, 80,000-year orbit and comes from the Oort Cloud, a distant region of our solar system filled with millions of comets. It was discovered in February 2023 by astronomers using the ATLAS telescope in South Africa and the Tsuchinshan Observatory in China.

The comet’s closest approach to the sun, known as perihelion, will occur on October 10, 2024. Shortly after, it should be visible in the southwest sky just after sunset, especially from the northern hemisphere. Throughout October and November, it will climb higher in the southern sky, making it easier to spot.

Will Comet A3 Shine Like Venus?

Predicting the brightness of comets is tricky. However, Comet A3 could shine as bright as Venus, which has a magnitude of -5. Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky after the full moon. The comet’s position relative to Earth might allow it to reach this impressive brightness. However, it will likely be very low on the horizon, making it hard to see clearly from the northern hemisphere.

As it rises higher in the sky after mid-October, the comet will slightly dim, but this will still be the best time to see it. If visible to the naked eye, Comet A3 will be a spectacular sight for sky-watchers around the world.