Comet alert! Tonight is the best night to get outside and spot C/2014 Q2, a comet discovered last year by Aussie astronomer Terry Lovejoy. Although your mileage may vary, a clear night is predicted tonight at least in Sydney and its surrounds, so there’s a good chance that a fair chunk of Australia’s population will be able to get a decent look.
A post from Sydney Observatory last night says that Lovejoy is visible now, but tonight is the night where it’s expected to be its closest to Earth, at a distance of 0.7 AU. To view Lovejoy, get outside away from any sources of light pollution, and look to the East around 9PM with a good pair of binoculars. Match up a few of these star patterns to orient your viewing, and you’ll be able to spot the transit of Lovejoy.
Here’s a bit more info, courtesy of Astroblog.
Previously: Known technically as C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) the comet should be closest to Earth on the 7th of January, although it was predicted to increase in brightness until at least mid-January, when it may be feasible to spot it with the naked eye.
Right now, however, as the Sydney Observatory notes it can be tricky to spot for photographic purposes.
Although that doesn’t mean that you can’t get really good shots of it with the right equipment:
The intense green colour that Lovejoy gives off is thanks to the presence of cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which both glow green when sunlight passes through them.
C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) has a slightly decaying orbit, so while it’s around 11,000 years since it was last in our part of the galaxy, it’s predicted to be back in around 8,000 years from now. Probably best to see it while you can this week, however.
If you’re keen to photograph Lovejoy yourself, Cometchasing has a guide to the predicted times and visibility of the comet for a variety of latitudes here.