Sunday, January 11, 2015

Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy image

A new comet is in the skies during January. 

This is comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy, discovered last August by prolific comet-hunter Terry Lovejoy.

Having spent the time since its discovery in the southern hemisphere as a faint object, it is now reaching fourth magnitude, and is visible using binoculars or small telescopes.

It should be visible with the naked eye from country locations.

On 6 January Robin Scagell found the comet easily in 12 x 45 binoculars from Flackwell Heath, Bucks.

'I was surprised how bright and large it appeared. I didn't have to search very carefully to find it, ' he reports. 'It was circular, with no hint of a tail.'

By 10 January the comet was easily spotted using 30 mm binoculars. Photography brings out a faint gas tail, which changes daily as a result of pressure from the solar wind.

During January it gets higher in the sky and also becomes brighter. It reaches perihelion – its closest to the Sun, on 30 January.

However, it will be closest to the Earth in the second week of January, which is when it will probably be at its brightest for Earth-bound observers.

Comet Lovejoy's track during December 2014 and early January 2015. 

Ticks mark its position at midnight on the date shown.

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