Saturday, January 17, 2015

Comet Lovejoy 

A friend said "Follow Orion's belt up to the Pleiades" and to their right -- with binoculars or a telescope, because this rare visible-to-the-naked-eye comet is at its brightest right now, today, at magnitude 3.8. That's not very bright; the North Star is much brighter at magnitude 1.97. About 11:15 p.m. last night in the marvelous 99 percent darkness we have here (except for the headlights on passing cars) I searched with my 8x binoculars. Didn't find the comet.

Back in the house I consulted the Google Sky map. It's not on there! Googled it, learning its name -- Comet Lovejoy, how wonderful! -- at, and their map showed the comet's location and trajectory for every day of January--currently to the right of the Pleiades, just as I was told. The page had wonderful astronomers' photos of the comet, which is bright green. Out again but did not find it. Kept looking to the right of the Pleiades. Now I'd been looking for an hour. I knew it was out there. Back indoors, looking at the same map.

The temperature, above freezing, was tolerable, so I went out again because I hate to give up on anything. Carefully, carefully I  swept the sky with its shovelsful of stars. This time I recalled that the sky is a curved shell and "to the right"--as the stars progress westward--will also mean "downward." At last, at last: I found it. A smeary little wad of light, no tail, not visibly green, but rather the color of Vaseline. Beautiful, to me!

1 comment:

gaye g.p said...

I saw it, and beckoned the hubby to come see it too. Easier for us to spot because our suburb-sky washes out all but the brightest cosmic lights. Huh--never thought I'd be glad for that.