Observe Comet Lovejoy C2014 this January

-courtesy APOD Jan 17 2015
-courtesy APOD Jan 17 2015

Comet Lovejoy now appears to have ‘tails’ – streamers of gas and dust. You can see them in a small telescope. The tails develop as the material heats up for Comet Lovejoy Q2 approaches perihelion (closest to sun distance) on Jan 30 2015.

Skies above Mississippi Mills this January host a nice comet-like object Messier 1 (M1)  and a REAL comet, Comet Lovejoy C2014. The first one leads you right to the real one: Locate M1 just above Zeta Tauri  tonight and it will lead you up to Comet Lovejoy. From  M1 trace a line to the other side of the Hyades to Comet Lovejoy (about 2/3 of the way on the line joining Aldebaran towards 1 Tauri – at the end of the ‘wishbone’).

-courtesy Stellarium
-courtesy Stellarium

Earlier this month, Comet Lovejoy appeared  spherical  in my 6″ Dobsonian – no hint of a ‘tail’. This sketch posted at Astronomy Picture of the Day,  resembles what  binoculars or small telescope might show.

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Comet Lovejoy C2014 courtesy ASOD and  Frank McCabe

Compare the above cometary observation with the one for Messier 1 (below)…  which was the first Messier ‘mis-comet’. It looks a bit more oblong (also fainter and more shimmering). This object,  although originally identified as a comet look-alike by Charles Messier in the 18th century, is a beautiful Supernova Remnant. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_Nebula

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Image courtesy Astronomy Picture of the Day Messier 1 By Hans-jürgen Merk (Messier 1)

Here’s a star chart from the article http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/spot-comet-lovejoy-tonight-122920141/

 

Lovejoy2-550px
Comet Lovejoy Finder Map courtesy Sky and Telescope

If you missed it tonight (Jan 12/13 2014) keep your binoculars ready to spot it moving closer to the Pleiades, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades later this month.

cometLovejoyJan19

Comet Lovejoy now appears to have 'tails' - streamers of gas and dust. I spotted it going toward 41 Arietis (the bright star to the left of the Constellation name Aries).. It wasn't easy to find the comet using the chart from Sky and Tel - need to do some field rotation to recognize the comet is above and to the right of the Pleiades. I used a small telescope, but binoculars will do.