Comet Lovejoy approaching key spot

Dec 23, 2013 by Delthia Ricks

Comet Lovejoy reaches a pivotal point in its orbit next week when it comes closest to the sun. It will still be visible to earthbound skygazers, astronomers say.

While not a sun-grazer like its sibling , ISON, which flew into the sun and vaporized last month, Lovejoy is expected to reach so-called perihelion on Christmas Day.

"When the comet comes close to the sun, the solar winds push material off of it," said Jin Koda, an assistant professor in the department of astronomy and physics at Stony Brook University. Those winds force dust, ice and vapors off the core into the characteristic tail. Koda has captured some of the world's best photos of Lovejoy's journey.

Last week, the comet could be spotted near the Big Dipper's handle. But it's moving at nearly 300 miles per second and can now be spotted near an entirely different star cluster-Hercules.

Experts recommend evening viewing because the moon may hinder a good sighting before dawn. With a pair of binoculars Lovejoy should be easily visible around 6:30 p.m. EST until the end of the year.

"If you're looking east, the Big Dipper is scraping the horizon and its bowl is pointing on an angle up near the North Star," said comet tracker Dan Malerbo, an astronomer with the Buhl Planetarium and Observatory in Pittsburgh.

"Hercules is located to the left of the Big Dipper and has the shape of a keystone," he said. "This comet isn't getting too close to the sun. ISON was about 700,000 miles from the sun. This one is 70 million miles away."

Explore further: Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

Related Stories

Subaru telescope captures comet Lovejoy's tail

Dec 06, 2013

A team of astronomers from Stony Brook University (the State University of New York at Stony Brook), the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), and others used Suprime-Cam, Subaru Telescope's ...

Image: Comet ISON on Thanksgiving Day

Nov 29, 2013

Comet ISON has moved quite close to the sun as seen by from ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory captured at 10:51 a.m. EST on Nov. 28, 2013.

Recommended for you

Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

8 minutes ago

The latest views of Ceres' enigmatic white spots are sharper and clearer, but it's obvious that Dawn will have to descend much lower before we'll see crucial details hidden in this overexposed splatter of ...

Rosetta's view of a comet's "great divide"

28 minutes ago

The latest image to be revealed of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comes from October 27, 2014, before the Philae lander even departed for its surface. Above we get a view of a dramatically-shadowed cliff ...

How long will our spacecraft survive?

38 minutes ago

There are many hazards out there, eager to disrupt and dismantle the mighty machines we send out into space. How long can they survive to perform their important missions?

Why roundworms are ideal for space studies

58 minutes ago

Humans have long been fascinated by the cosmos. Ancient cave paintings show that we've been thinking about space for much of the history of our species. The popularity of recent sci-fi movies suggest that ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.