Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Comet Lovejoy Closest This Week

Staff Writer, Nathaniel Diaz
Space / Comet

Get out your astronomical gear, binoculars and telescopes, Comet Lovejoy to be the brightest this week. According to Space.com's article, How to Spot Potentially Dazzling 'New Year's Comet', we are given a guide to finding our own vision of Comet Lovejoy:
Closest to Earth on Jan. 7

Gareth V. Williams, of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, calculated the comet's revised orbit based on 530 observed positions from July 1 (before the comet was discovered) through Dec. 4. He found that the comet will pass through the perihelion point of its orbit (its closest point to the sun) on Jan. 30, when it passes 119.9 million miles (193 million km) from the sun. However, the comet is expected to reach its closest point to Earth — a minimum of 43.6 million miles (70.2 million km) — on Jan. 7.

For this reason, assuming that the comet will continue to brighten at its current rate, I would suggest that Lovejoy will be at its brightest around Jan. 7, shining as bright as magnitude 4.6, thus making it one of the brightest comets located high in a dark sky since the unexpected outburst of Comet Holmes in October 2007. [101 Amazing Skywatcher Photos from 2014]

That's a bit brighter than Eta Ursae Minoris, the faintest of the four stars in the bowl of the Little Dipper. So, will you be able to glimpse the comet without any optical aid? The answer is simple: If you can see all four stars in the Little Dipper's bowl, you should be able to see the comet.
  Happy Hunting.

Source: Space.com