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Wed, 11 Mar 2015 - Seen Comet Lovejoy?

 For more images see the Gallery below

Comet 2014 Q2 Lovejoy, discovered last August by prolific comet-hunter Terry Lovejoy, remains easily observable using binoculars and small telescopes. It is now about sixth magnitude and is observable all night in Cassiopeia, though it is highest during the early evening.

Observing from Morpeth, Northumberland, Alastair McBeath reported that on 3 March 'The rounded, misty coma still seems roughly 0.25° across to me, and although I could follow the straight tail for about half a degree northeast from the coma's middle on March 1-2, that seemed much less obvious, although I was struggling to pick up even some of the nearby seventh magnitude stars in the washed-out sky then. My impression was the coma was plausibly in the magnitude +5.9 to +6.2 range (mag +6.0 or fainter more recently). Fading, but not yet quite gone!'

During March the comet fades as it gets farther from Earth. It reached perihelion – its closest to the Sun – on 30 January. 

To find it, use the sky map here for the sky looking north-west at about 8 pm from the UK. Look high up for the well-known W-shaped constellation of Cassiopeia. Though the comet is bright enough to be found without too much searching with binoculars as it gets fainter you may need a more detailed map, showing fainter stars, which you can get by clicking on the map below. The more detailed map is black on white to make it easier to print out.

To obtain actual positions (an ephemeris), suitable for setting Go To telescopes, go to the SPA/BAA Comet Section page. In the blue section at the bottom, scroll down and click on Comet Ephemerides, then choose Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy's track during March and early April 2015. Ticks mark its position at midnight on the date shown. You can get a more detailed chart, showing stars to about 10th magnitude, by clicking on the image.

Photo gallery

The comet on the evening of 13 January, showing a fine tail as it passes star clusters the Hyades and the Pleiades in Taurus. Photo by Paul Sutherland from Walmer, Kent.
Nick Hart took this shot on 16 January from Newport, South Wales, through a 200 mm reflector. The comet and star images were stacked separately and combined in software
A view by Ian Sharp in Spain on 19 January using a 200 mm telephoto lens, showing the tail extending to the Pleiades star cluster. Click for full image and here for a wide-field view using an 85 mm lens that includes the California Nebula.
A combination of 12 60-second images through a 200 mm f/4 telescope on 18 January, using a Canon 5D Mk II camera at ISO 1600. SPA Forum member MeteorB took the image from near Kilwinning, Ayrshire and 'had to aggressively stretch the image to get a decent impression of the tail. 'The picture is in mono to hide very poor colour balance due to hideous light pollution.' Click to enlarge
Ralph Smyth of Lisburn, N. Ireland, tweeted this image from 18 January made using a DSLR camera and an 80 mm ED refractor. Click to enlarge
The comet on 6 March, photographed through an 80 mm refractor using a Canon 70D DSLR by Robin Scagell


Added by: Robin Scagell