Friday, January 2, 2015

Stargazers Can Celebrate the New Year with Comet Lovejoy

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 1:07 PM

A large, bright comet will soon be visible to stargazers through binoculars and even the naked eye, Sky and Telescope reports

C/2014 Q2, or "Comet Lovejoy," spent a long stint in the southern hemisphere, and has been visible in the northern hemisphere by telescope-equipped astronomers since Dec. 26, though it was obscured by the light of the moon. But when the moon goes dark Jan. 7, it will be visible near the constellation Eridanus, just west of Orion. By Jan. 17, it will pass near the Pleiades. That's when it will be approximately 44 million miles from Earth.

Comet Lovejoy is marked by a bright green ion tail, at the end of which will be the comet itself—a dusty iceberg firing off ionized water mixed with carbon. This isn't  the first time the celestial visitor's path has been visible to the naked eye—its last pass through the solar system was 11,500 years ago—but due to planets' gravitational effects, its path will be shorter next time: Comet Lovejoy will next come through the inner solar system in about 8,000 years.

The comet is named after Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, who has discovered four comets previously. A previous discovery, C/2013 R1, rewarded early-morning stargazers in the southern hemisphere in 2013.

For more information on where to look in the night sky for the comet, consult the star charge below.

click to enlarge This chart shows the path of the Comet Lovejoy as it passes through the northern hemisphere during the month of January. - SKYANDTELESCOPE.COM
  • Skyandtelescope.com
  • This chart shows the path of the Comet Lovejoy as it passes through the northern hemisphere during the month of January.

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