Comet Lovejoy’s view to get better as January progresses
Comet Lovejoy is currently passing through the boundaries of Eridanus aka Heavenly River constellation and it will be increasingly visible through unaided eye as we progress into January.
The initial few days of this month didn’t provide the best viewing conditions owing to the bright early winter moon and the foggy conditions in many parts of the world. As of now Lovejoy is dimly visible through the unaided eye with the coma, or head of the comet, about 18 arc minutes wide – somewhere around 238,600 miles.
With the moon moving out of the evening sky, star gazers will get almost an hour of darkness everyday to view Comet Lovejoy with no interference from moonlight. Moonrise will be delayed everyday thereby giving comet watchers progressively longer spells of darkness and with the comet continuing to climb higher and closer toward a better position for early evening viewing, the real treat is yet to be served.
“It is very astonishing that this comet shows a very steady increase with such a great activity parameter over many weeks,” says German amateur astronomer Andreas Kammerer who has been analysing the evolution of Comet Lovejoy ever since it was discovered. “If it should continue this evolution it will reach magnitude 4.0 in mid-January, with the coma measuring about 25 arc minutes.”
From its current position, Comet Lovejoy will be heading over into Taurus the Bull by Friday, January 9. The comet will then be slowing down as it go higher up in the sky reaching Aries the Ram by January 17 and then the boundary of Perseus the Hero and Triangulum the Triangle by the end of January.
By end of the month, Comet Lovejoy would have faded to around 5th magnitude making unaided eye viewing impossible, but with a pair of binoculars or small telescopes, a certain amount of viewing would be possible.
The comet was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy last August and was officially catalogued as C/2014 Q2. Comet Lovejoy will be closest to Earth tonight (January 7) at a distance of 43.6 million miles (70.2 million km).