Comet Lovejoy Heralds the New Year

Comet C/2014 Q2, commonly called Lovejoy after its discoverer Terry Lovejoy, is passing near Earth right now. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait watched it a couple of days ago, and says it will become brighter over the next couple of weeks, peaking on January 7th, and already visible to the naked eye.

If you want to see this comet for yourself—and you do—it rises a couple of hours after sunset. For now, I suggest waiting until about 9-ish or so to look, since it will be high off the horizon then, but your kilometerage may vary. It rises earlier every day, and by early January it’ll be high up by the time it gets dark (though the nearly full Moon will make things tougher; after about Jan. 7 or so the Moon will rise late enough that it won’t be as big a problem). Sky and Telescope has excellent maps with the comet’s path on them. If you have bad weather, or just want to stay indoors, the Virtual Telescope Project will have live online viewings on Jan. 6 and Jan. 11, 2015.

Better take advantage of this opportunity: Lovejoy takes 14,000 years to orbit the sun, so you won’t see it again. Read more about this comet at Bad Adtronomy.

(Image credit: Phil Hart)

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