Keeping warm? 21/12 marked the start of astronomical winter for the northern hemisphere, meaning long nights and (hopefully) clear, cold skies. But we’ve also got another reason to brave the cold this week, as Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is set to put on a show for northern hemisphere observers.
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Comet Lovejoy will be barely visible to the naked eye, though it will be easily visible through binoculars and small telescopes and well worth checking out. “It’s not going to be really phenomenal, but it’s coming” said Heather Preston, planetarium director at the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium. “Right now, it’s a binocular object: If you have a pair of binoculars and point in the right direction, you’ll see it. It’s hard to see now, but as it brightens, it will be easier, and, hopefully, you can see a tail.”
Amateur astronomers like Lovejoy have been tracking its approach, and in the last few days, the comet has reportedly become noticeably more visible.
With Comet Q2 (as some are also calling it) expected to continue brightening in the coming days, Sky and Telescope reports it could reach “sixth magnitude” (aka the verge of naked-eye visibility) around December 26 and may even continue to brighten through mid-January.
“As far as astronomers are concerned, this is a really bright comet,” Bakich (senior editor of Astronomy magazine) said. “Most comets that pass through our solar system are 10,000 to a million times fainter than this one; we can follow those, but there’s not a lot of light, and we can’t do much with them.
“This comet has plenty of light; we can find out what it’s made of, what it’s outgassing. The public might be disappointed with Comet Lovejoy, but for astronomers, it’s a wonder.”
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