The New Years Comet — officially catalogued as 2014 Q2, or Q2 for short — should be a fine object to view in small telescopes and binoculars during much of January. In dark skies free of significant light pollution, the comet may even be visible with the unaided eye.
Amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy first discovered 2014 Q2 just before dawn on Aug. 17, 2014, from his roll-off roof observatory in Birkdale, Queensland, Australia. The newly discovered comet is the fifth one Lovejoy has found since 2007. He spotted it on CCD camera images he took using a Celestron C-8 telescope.
According to spaceweather: Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) continues to brighten, and it can now be seen with the naked eye even from light-polluted urban areas.
The comet’s blue tail is so long, only 1/3rd of it fits in the image provided left. The whole thing stretches more than 7 million km from end to end.
On Jan. 7th, Comet Lovejoy was at its closest to Earth: 0.47 astronomical units (70 million km) away. Although the comet will be moving away from us for the rest of the month, it will continue to grow in brightness because it is still moving closer to the sun.
Science journalist and longtime comet watcher Mariano Ribas reports from the Planetario de Buenos Aires: “Last night, I could see Comet Lovejoy with my unaided eyes in the sky of Buenos Aires. Barely, and only using averted vision. But I saw it!”
“Surely,” says Ribas, “the best is still to come!”