Comet Lovejoy

If you would like to view comet Lovejoy, you have a few more days left. The next time it will come around will be roughly 8000 years from now.  On January 30th the newly discovered Comet Lovejoy will be closest to the sun (120 million miles).  It was closest to earth on January 7th (43.6 million miles away). Some of the CBS 13 viewers have been sending us photos over the past several days. Here are two from photographer Mike Leonard.
Comet Lovejoy - _MG_8075
Mike Leonard Jan. 16th

Comet Lovejoy - _MG_8077
Mike Leonard Jan 16th

If you’d like to view the Comet Lovejoy from home, EarthSky has some suggestions.

How to see Comet Lovejoy. The comet has been heading northward on the starry dome, and it’s now in and among what we in the Northern Hemisphere consider the “winter” constellations. It’s in front of the constellation Taurus at this writing (January 15, 2015). Don’t know Taurus? Do this:

1. Go outside in the evening. Look southward if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere and overhead if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. You’re looking for three stars in a short, straight row. These stars are in the constellation Orion the Hunter and mark the Hunter’s Belt.

2. Notice that the medium-bright Belt stars point toward two brighter stars. In one direction, the Belt stars point toward Sirius, sky’s brightest star. In other other direction, the Belt stars point toward the reddish star Aldebaran, fiery Eye of the Bull in Taurus. Forget about Sirius for now. Look at Aldebaran.

3. The star Aldebaran is part of a V-shaped cluster of stars called the Hyades. Look for this V of stars. If you see it, you know you’ve found the Face of Taurus the Bull. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the comet will be to the right of Orion’s Belt and this V-shaped cluster – the Bull’s Face – beginning around January 9.

4. Now look for the Pleiades, sometimes called the Seven Sisters. It looks like a tiny, misty dipper in our sky – very noticeable! Then check the charts above. Night by night, the comet is edging up toward the Pleiades, which is making it easier than ever to find.

5. How can you see the comet? Your best bet is to sweep with binoculars near the V-shaped Hyades cluster, with its bright star Aldebaran, and the tiny, misty, dipper-shaped Pleiades. What does sweep mean? It means to scan the sky in an orderly way, back and forth, until you notice a round, fuzzy spot that does not look like a star.

Comet Lovejoy is now barely at the limit for seeing with the unaided eye. SkyandTelescope.com reported on January 14:

Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, is in the midst of its best two weeks. It’s about magnitude 3.8, as bright as it should get. Use the finder charts at the bottom of this page to find its location among the stars. Although magnitude 3.8 ought to make it a naked-eye object, its diffuse fuzziness means that most viewers, who live under light pollution, still need optical aid. In binoculars it’s a biggish, gray fuzzball, with a brighter core slightly off center. Can you see signs of the dim tail?

Other observers using binoculars and small telescopes have described the comet as:

… a circular patch of white light, roughly half the apparent width of the moon.

The comet most definitely has a tail as seen in photos; we’ve heard some reports that it has lost and regained its tail a few times over the past weeks.

Comet Lovejoy will cross into the constellation Triangulum on January 25. On February 4, it will have a close conjunction with beautiful double star Almach (gamma Andromedae).

comet-lovejoy-chart-january-2015-ST-e1419931846538

Charlie Lopresti

About Charlie Lopresti

Charlie makes up the "Weather Part" of CBS News 13s evening edition. A native New Englander, he grew up enjoying the area's exciting and sometimes wild weather.