For the next two weeks, Comet Lovejoy will be visible to the naked eye. Here on Earth, it will be as well-pronounced as the comet will be at any point while it’s time near Earth. It won’t be making any return visits – anytime soon, either. The comet will not make an approach this close to Earth again for another 8,000 years. Astronomers have advised though that the comet will not be completely visible for the entirety and viewing it with the naked eye – while it will be possible – might not be the simplest of tasks.
Right now, Lovejoy is 44 million miles from Earth – roughly speaking – and can be found by observers east of Orion’s belt. Lovejoy was actually discovered by a recreational astronomer. Terry Lovejoy was the individual who spotted the comet – and it was only discovered in 2014 – making this one of the newest comets in the sky to see. The orbit of the Lovejoy comet is 200 years or more, astronomers note – and when compared to comets like Haily’s Comet – the orbital period is significantly longer than what scientists have seen before. The Lovejoy Comet was first observed in August of 2014 – and was discovered in Birkland, Queensland, Australia.
On January 30th, the comet will reach its closest point to the sun, and then begin to fade by going back in the opposite direction. For those who are looking to spot the comet though, astronomers note that observers will simply have to look in the East sky, and look for the object that appears to have a green tint to it. However, it will require clear, unpolluted skies in order to fully see the comet.
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For those who have trouble seeing the comet on a clear night – experts suggest using a pair of good binoculars in order to fully see Lovejoy in the sky. Those who have already photographed the comet have noted that green tint is more predominant than what observers had previously thought the comet would emit. Original expectations were that the green tint would not be quite as present as it actually was.
Another major accomplishment in the space community was the Rosetta craft when the mission that brought that very craft near Comet 67P, and actually landed a lander on the body of the comet was named “breakthrough of the year” by Physics World. The distinction is one that greatly reiterates the importance of the Rosetta mission, and how important it is for Rosetta to continue onward as it has already done some groundbreaking work. The landing on Comet 67P took place on November 12th, 2014 – and even as the Philae lander bounced, and eventually died from lack of sunlight – a lot of hope still remains about the future of the lander and the mission as a whole.