Tuesday 6 January 2015

Further Comet Lovejoy Observations

The day shift was running, another 15km along the Owl Road with no owls, past the fieldfare fields between Hawton and Farndon, and watching a huge buzzard being pursued across the Trent to the power station by a couple of brave and naughty crows.

The night belongs to astronomy, and more specifically Comet Lovejoy.

It was easy to find  even in a rather barren area of sky, about ten degrees West of Orion's Belt, and in my 10x50s the effect was of a slightly smaller and fainter Andromeda galaxy forming the apex of an isosceles triangle with two 6th magnitude stars in Eridanus. There is a definite teardrop shape about the comet, but there is no tail in view; hopefully it may become apparent in the run up to perihelion.

The magnitude I would guess is about 4.8-5, and in my urban skies there is no chance of it being a naked eye object unless it brightens to 3.5 - 4. But comets are unpredictable, if it outbursts at perihelion, it may appear rather brighter.

It's only a rare comet, like Hale Bopp of 1997, that really looks like the common mental image of one of these magical visitors from the depths of the Oort Cloud. Lovejoy is not such an object, but I always feel great joy in being able to spot a comet, especially from an urban garden.


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