Saturday 21 February 2015

Comet Lovejoy, Moon, Mars and Glittering Venus

Cycling home from work is always a relief, tempered by the generally hostile roads and unpleasant temperament towards cyclists of some of those driving upon it. The winter months are of course the worst but compared to recent years, where I have cycled in temperatures as low as -14, or been blown off the cycle path by a blizzard, this season has been relatively comfortable.

As I'm still travelling in the dark, I'm not getting to see much in the way of life when I'm leaving or arriving work, but tonight was different. There was a beautiful smiling moon falling softly into the west, the earthlight giving a deep indigo cast to the unilluminated portion. And below that, Venus pearl bright bossing its nearby companion Lord Mars into a tragic lack of conspicuity.

I missed last night's triple conjunction when the moon was much nearer to the two planets due to poor weather, but the view tonight was just as attractive. Both Venus and Moon had a special silveriness about their reflected light tonight, and it gave me some rare beauty to enjoy on the way home.

Once I was home, there was a chance to have a quick go at spotting Comet Lovejoy. Initially, I got me "something andromedae's" mixed up and homed in on the Andromeda Galaxy - really I should know better! - but quickly I found my space legs and located the comet halfway from "the peach star" Gamma Andromedae to Cassiopeiae. It has gotten noticeably smaller as it gets further away, and now it is rather fainter than the Andromeda Galaxy. It looks rather like an elongated globular cluster, with suggestions of a tail...just!

Despite this, it is still an easy object for binoculars, and if you can't find it, well, there's plenty else to see on a dark, clear night such as this. Give it a go!


The Moon and Venus

Smiling Moon above my flat

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