Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), a long-period comet discovered by Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy on August 17, 2014, is making closest approach to our planet today, at some 70 million kilometers (43.5 million miles / 0.469 AU) away.
This comet is now a naked eye object and predictions call for it to continue brightening from 5th to 4th magnitude for the next couple of weeks. This makes it an easy target for both binoculars and even naked-eye observations for those who know where to look (finder chart during January 2015 by Sky&Telescope).
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to observe this comet so close as its next scheduled appearance through our neighborhood is due around the year 10 000.
Q2 will be in excellent place for viewing from the Northern Hemisphere through much of January, 2015.
It can be seen near the constellation Orion about an hour after sunset, although it is even easier to see it a few hours later in the evening and until moonrise. Luckily, the moon is now waning, rising an hour later each evening.
|C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)|
|[ Ephemeris | Orbit Diagram | Orbital Elements | Physical Parameters | Close-Approach Data ]|
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) orbit diagram by JPL
Q2 is forecast to reach its brightest, at around magnitude 4.2 on January 10, 2015. It will lie at a distance of about 197 million km (122 million miles / 1.32 AU) from the Sun and 71 million km (44 million miles / 0.48 AU) from the Earth.
Video courtesy of Phil Hart
For astrophotographers, however, the real photo op will be on Sunday, January 18, when Q2 brushes past the famous Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus.
The comet will make its closest approach to the Sun on January 30 at a distance of 192 million km (119 million miles / 1.29 AU).
— Weather Network UK (@TheWeatherNetUK) January 7, 2015
— Maxime Duprez (@maximaxoo) January 6, 2015
— Blackpool Astronomy (@badas_tweets) January 5, 2015
— Maxime Duprez (@maximaxoo) January 4, 2015
— Sophia Nasr (@Pharaoness) December 30, 2014
— Tim Kelley NECN (@SurfSkiWxMan) December 30, 2014
— David Dickinson (@Astroguyz) December 30, 2014
— Justin Ng (@justinngphoto) December 30, 2014
- See more images of this comet here.
Featured image: Screenshot from Vimeo video by Phil Hart
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