As mentioned in our Night Sky schedule for January 2015, the highlight of this month will be the passing of Comet Lovejoy. But, what is Comet Lovejoy? where is it from? What is it made of and what is so special about this Comet at this moment in time? Read on to quench your thirst for knowledge.
What is Comet Lovejoy?
Comet Lovejoy was discovered in August 17 2014 by Australian Astronomer Terry Lovejoy using an eight inch telescope. It is a large chunk of ice rock and debris thought to originate from the Oort cloud, a mass of ice objects orbiting some 30 trillion light years out from our Sun. The comet’s green color results from two gases, cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which glow green when sunlight passes through them. Lovejoy is the brightest comet to pass Earth in years and will not re-appear again until about 8.000 years from now.
How can I see it?
Comet Lovejoy will be visible with the naked eye or small binoculars in very dark areas. To see it’s color and maybe even the tail one needs a powerful telescope. Viewing conditions vary of course and depend on several factors but with a clear or semi-clear sky you stand a good chance. It will be located a little bit left of the Orion Constellation and moving upwards throughout the month.
Note that it will not be as vivid as professional photographs depict but if lucky you should be able to see it’s color and tail to a varying detail but with a span equivalent to about half our Moons diameter.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity so hop on with us!
Image: Gerald Rhemann