As 2014 gives way to 2015, the bright, beautiful Comet Lovejoy will be visible in our dark skies into January.
Between now and until at least mid-January, Comet Lovejoy will be visible to the naked eye, but with binoculars or a telescope skywatchers will be able to distinguish the comet’s tails, says astronomer Derek Kief from the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.
Kief says Vancouverites will be able to see Comet Lovejoy in the city, with the best vantages being from areas with little or no light. City dwellers may want to head to the top of their building, or to one of the local parks where they can find a darker place to check out the sky. Stanley Park, UBC, Queen Elizabeth Park, and the Space Centre offer good dark spots, as do the North Shore Mountains, says Kief.
Comet Lovejoy will be easiest to spot on January 7, when it is closest to earth in its approach. The full moon, however, may make it a little harder to get a clear view. On that night, Comet Lovejoy is “not going to be obscenely bright, but bright as the stars around it,” Kief says. Viewers will want to be sure to head out after sunset, with visibility improving the later–and darker–you go.
To find Comet Lovejoy, you’ll want to look for the constellation Orion. Locate the brightest star in his belt–it’s the far right of the three. To the right of that star, look for a “whitish smudge,” says Kief. That’s Comet Lovejoy.
Fear not if you’re having a tough time making it out. Kief says at the Space Centre they’ll be looking at and talking about Comet Lovejoy in January, and with their observatory open to the public Saturday nights, it’s a great time to head over and take a peek through their ½-metre Cassegrain telescope.
They’re hoping to get some great photos of Comet Lovejoy at the Space Centre, says Kief. If you head out with a telescope and camera, you may be able to capture some good shots, too.
The comet may appear greenish in photos because of the light reflection, though to the eye it may look more grey. Here’s a time-lapse animation video taken December 28, 2014 showing three hours of the comet’s movement: