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CosmosUp | August 15, 2022

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Comet Lovejoy Shines Bright in Night Sky for Christmas

Comet Lovejoy Shines Bright in Night Sky for Christmas

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.”
Comet Lovejoy

Q2 Lovejoy plus negative image taken from New Mexico on December 20th. Credit and copyright: Joseph Brimacombe (click to zoom)

Comet Lovejoy, also designated C/2014 Q2, is the fifth comet to be discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. He first found it last August, but in the last few months, the comet has reportedly been moving closer to Earth and becoming brighter at a faster pace than expected.

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.

Comet Lovejoy won’t be a dazzling celestial light show, the pros are looking forward to it.

“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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