30Dec2015

Binocular Comet Lovejoy Heading North

Jonny-binoculars

Right now its an easy find target. Catch it before it moves further north

A new Comet Lovejoy, designated C/2014 Q2, is heading our way out of deep space and out of the deep southern sky. It may brighten to 5th magnitude from late December through much of January.

It then climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter night. This is Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy’s fifth comet discovery. He turned it up at 15th magnitude in Puppis last August, in search images that he took with a wide-field 8-inch scope.

It hasn’t moved very much since then — it’s still in Puppis as of December 11th — but it’s hundreds of times brighter now at visual magnitude 6.8, reports David Seargent in Australia. On December 9th “I saw it easily using a pair of 6×35 binoculars,” Seargent writes. Using a 4-inch binocular telescope at 25×, he says it was a good 8 arcminutes wide with a strong central condensation and no visible tail. And it’s picking up speed across the sky for a long northward dash.

Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, on Nov. 27, 2014

The new Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, as imaged on November 27th by Gerald Rhemann in Austria using a remotely operated 12-inch f/3.6 astrograph in Namibia.

A Comet of the High Dark

“Comet Q2,” as some are calling it, will skim through Columba south of Orion and Lepus from the nights of December 16th through the 26th, brightening all the while, as shown on the finder charts for December and January below and on the print-friendly versions here: December, January. The dates on the charts are in Universal Time, and the ticks are for 0:00 UT.

The comet spends the last few days of December in Lepus at perhaps 6th magnitude, though by then the light of the waxing Moon (at first quarter on the 28th) will start to be an annoyance. On New Year’s Eve, a little after January 1st Universal Time, look for the comet just off Lepus’s forehead as shown on the charts.

The Moon brightens to become full on January 4th. Most of us won’t get a dark moonless view again until early in the evening of January 7th, with the comet now crossing northernmost Eridanus. That’s the same day it passes closest by Earth: at a distance of 0.47 a.u (44 million miles; 70 million km). That’s also about when it should start glowing brightest for its best two weeks, as it crosses Taurus and Aries high in early evening.

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during December 2014. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during December 2014. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time)

By then the comet is starting to recede into the distance, but its intrinsic brightness should still be increasing a bit; it doesn’t reach perihelion until January 30th, at a rather distant 1.29 a.u. from the Sun. By that date the comet should be starting to fade slightly from Earth’s point of view. In February it will continue north between Andromeda and Perseus as it fades further, on its way to passing very close to Polaris late next May when it should again be very faint.

Originally Comet Q2 wasn’t expected to become this bright. We’re basing these predictions on an analysis by J. P. Navarro Pina in late November using the comet’s visual behavior for the previous several weeks. Whether it will continue to brighten on schedule is anybody’s guess, but the odds are good; comets that don’t come near the Sun are more predictable in their brightnesses than those that do.

Q2 is a very long-period comet, but this is not its first time coming through the inner solar system. On the way in, its path showed an orbital period of roughly 11,500 years. Slight perturbations by the planets during this apparition will alter the orbit a bit, so that it will next return in about 8,000 years.

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during December 2014. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during January 2015. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

A new Comet Lovejoy, designated C/2014 Q2, is heading our way out of deep space and out of the deep southern sky. It may brighten to 5th magnitude from late December through much of January as it climbs into excellent viewing position for the Northern Hemisphere, high in the dark winter night.

This is Australian amateur Terry Lovejoy’s fifth comet discovery. He turned it up at 15th magnitude in Puppis last August, in search images that he took with a wide-field 8-inch scope. It hasn’t moved very much since then — it’s still in Puppis as of December 11th — but it’s hundreds of times brighter now at visual magnitude 6.8, reports David Seargent in Australia. On December 9th “I saw it easily using a pair of 6×35 binoculars,” Seargent writes. Using a 4-inch binocular telescope at 25×, he says it was a good 8 arcminutes wide with a strong central condensation and no visible tail.

And it’s picking up speed across the sky for a long northward dash.

A Comet of the High Dark

“Comet Q2,” as some are calling it, will skim through Columba south of Orion and Lepus from the nights of December 16th through the 26th, brightening all the while, as shown on the finder charts for December and January below and on the print-friendly versions here: December, January. The dates on the charts are in Universal Time, and the ticks are for 0:00 UT.

The comet spends the last few days of December in Lepus at perhaps 6th magnitude, though by then the light of the waxing Moon (at first quarter on the 28th) will start to be an annoyance. On New Year’s Eve, a little after January 1st Universal Time, look for the comet just off Lepus’s forehead as shown on the charts.

The Moon brightens to become full on January 4th. Most of us won’t get a dark moonless view again until early in the evening of January 7th, with the comet now crossing northernmost Eridanus. That’s the same day it passes closest by Earth: at a distance of 0.47 a.u (44 million miles; 70 million km). That’s also about when it should start glowing brightest for its best two weeks, as it crosses Taurus and Aries high in early evening.

By then the comet is starting to recede into the distance, but its intrinsic brightness should still be increasing a bit; it doesn’t reach perihelion until January 30th, at a rather distant 1.29 a.u. from the Sun. By that date the comet should be starting to fade slightly from Earth’s point of view. In February it will continue north between Andromeda and Perseus as it fades further, on its way to passing very close to Polaris late next May when it should again be very faint.

Originally Comet Q2 wasn’t expected to become this bright. We’re basing these predictions on an analysis by J. P. Navarro Pina in late November using the comet’s visual behavior for the previous several weeks. Whether it will continue to brighten on schedule is anybody’s guess, but the odds are good; comets that don’t come near the Sun are more predictable in their brightnesses than those that do.

Q2 is a very long-period comet, but this is not its first time coming through the inner solar system. On the way in, its path showed an orbital period of roughly 11,500 years. Slight perturbations by the planets during this apparition will alter the orbit a bit, so that it will next return in about 8,000 years.

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during December 2014. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

Finder chart for Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, during January 2015. The dates are in Universal Time; the ticks are at 0:00 UT (7 p.m. on the previous date Eastern Standard Time).

– See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/binocular-comet-lovejoy-heading-c2014-q2-lovejoy-1211142/#sthash.cXl9qcgC.dpuf

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