New Comet Lovejoy reaches peak viewing time

Comet Lovejoy, Dec. 22, 2014 | Image courtesy of Gerald Rhemann, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A newly discovered comet is getting closer to Earth, and will be most visible Wednesday with binoculars or telescope, or even with the naked eye.

Comet Lovejoy is finally about to enter its best viewing time. Its dim green glow will still be mostly washed out by bright moonlight on Monday and Tuesday nights. But on Wednesday, a window of dark-sky viewing begins to open up between the end of twilight and the time of moonrise. After that the moon will rise nearly an hour later each night. The later in the evening it gets, the higher in the sky the comet will be.

Comet Lovejoy, or C/2014 Q2, was discovered by Terry Lovejoy in August 2014 from an observatory in Brisbane, Australia. According to Space.com, Terry Lovejoy is a prolific comet discoverer with many objects named for him.

Image via Gerald Rhemann, Dec. 22, 2014, St. George News.
Comet Lovejoy, Dec. 22, 2014 | Image courtesy of Gerald Rhemann, St. George News

Since its discovery, the comet has brightened into a dazzling target for amateur astronomers. As it reaches peak brightness this week, it may even be visible to the unaided eye for observers of extremely dark skies away from city lights.

The comet is tinted green by gas fluorescing in sunlight, and is sweeping north through the constellation Columba, heading for Lepus south of Orion. It is now bright enough to offer good binocular views, according to Skyandtelescope.com.

Not its first time through the inner Solar System, this Comet Lovejoy will pass closest to planet Earth on Wednesday, while its perihelion (closest point to the sun) will be on Jan. 30. A “long period comet,” Comet Lovejoy should return again in about 8,000 years.

Images courtesy Gerald Rhemann. View full-resolution versions here.

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1 Comment

  • sagemoon January 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Awesome! Thanks for the info.

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