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Surprising Science

Ring in the New Year Watching Comet Lovejoy Skirt Across the Night Sky

A once and a lifetime event has come into our field of view. New Year’s celebrators should be able to easily spot Comet Lovejoy skirting past the constellation Orion in the night sky till mid January.

Ring in the New Year with something different this year: watch Comet Lovejoy (aka C/2014 Q2) skirt across the open sky as it becomes a visible target for those with binoculars and small telescopes.

As Lovejoy rockets through the sky some 44 million miles away, which is about half the distance from the Earth to the Sun, some stargazers outside of the influence of the city’s bright lights will be able to see the comet with their naked eye. The comet is currently sitting at a level 5 magnitude, but some experts believe it will reach 4.6 around January 7th, 2015 when it will be closest to Earth, making it one of the brightest comets since Comet Holmes’ approach in October 2007.

Spectators will be able to locate the comet under Lepus, and by the month’s end will approach the foot of Andromeda. Novices may be able to more easily locate the comet by looking for it near Orion’s belt. As it traverses the constellations in the night sky, those with binoculars should be able to easily pick out the streaming comet. For comparison, experts say its light is just slightly brighter than that of Eta Ursae Minoris, the dimmest of the four stars in the Little Dipper’s bowl.

Mitzi Adams, a NASA astronomer, said to Yahoo News that patient stargazers will be able to see the comet’s progress across the night’s sky.

“Comets are fun to watch because they move a large distance in the sky from one day to the next. If an observer looks for a comet on two consecutive days at the exact same time, a comet will have moved quite a bit in the sky. Indeed, one can observe cometary motion, if patient, on the same night.”

Lovejoy has an 11,500 year orbit, which means this is a once and a lifetime event. Don’t miss out.

Read more at Yahoo News

Photo Credit: Rocky Raybell/Flickr


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