Comet Lovejoy dancing in the night

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) has been making its way higher into the northern sky these last few weeks and is nearing its peak brightness. Already demonstrating a fully formed coma and an increasingly long tail, Lovejoy has been turning up on the interwebs in some spectacular photos.

Chances are you don’t live in a location with zero light pollution and a powerful telescope, but Lovejoy is bright enough that a decent pair of binoculars will easily reveal the coma (the “head” of the comet). Here’s a pic to give you an idea of what to look for:

Comet Lovejoy, January 9, 2015 by Tom Wolf. Click to embiggen.
Comet Lovejoy, on January 9, 2015. Credit: Tom Wolf. Click to embiggen.

My friend Tom Wolf took this image last night from his home in southern Pennsylvania with his camera and tripod. Cameras are great for picking up details and colors that we cannot see with our eyes. Binoculars or even a small telescope won’t reveal a greenish color, nor will the comet appear quite so bright (unless, perhaps, you have a really nice set of binoculars). But this does give you an idea of the comet’s shape and relative “size”, depending on your binocular’s/telescope’s field of view.

Best of all, the comet is relatively easy to spot in the early evening after dark, making its way from Orion into the constellation of Taurus.  It will soon be passing by some bright stars which will make it even easier to locate in the next couple of days. Sites like Sky and Telescope and Earth Sky have some handy viewing guides. In fact, I’ve been making use of this finder chart published by Sky and Telescope to find the comet each night:

Finder chart for Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). Credit: Sky & Telescope . Click for full size.
Finder chart for Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). Credit: Sky & Telescope . Click for full size.

So bundle up, grab your binoculars, and find this comet. It will take a few tries but believe me, it’s a very cool feeling when you finally “bag” it in your binoculars. Enjoy Lovejoy!

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