Holiday Comet 2014 – C2014 Q2 Lovejoy

Once again we have the opportunity to catch view of a comet over the next several weeks. Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is making its way through the solar system. As you may have noticed, there are several other postings about a comet Lovejoy, this one is different. Typically comets are named for the person (or group) who discovered them and this is another in a series of discoveries by Terry Lovejoy, the 5th to date.

The picture below was taken using the BRT scope on a scheduled job that completed on December 25th. This is a black and white photo at 120 seconds of exposure with a narrow field camera. On over-exposing the image, the tail comes out but without the over-exposure, only the comets nucleus is clearly visible, seen as the bright spot of fuzz in the image below. The tail extends toward the upper right of the image. Another image is included later in the post.


This comet will make its way through the solar system toward the Sun and out without a return for another 8,000 years or so. The best chance to view it will be over the next few weeks as it gets brighter and brighter arriving at its closest distance to Earth on January 7th while it will continue to brighten through its closest encounter with the Sun on January 30th. However, by that time, the comet is expected to begin dimming from our view because of its distance from us (around 120 million miles away by that point).

The image below was also captured using the BRT array by another user who managed to catch a great shot using the camera designed for taking pictures of star clusters. Also taken on December 25th, this picture is also at 120 second exposure and in normal color.


Viewing Information & Tips

To view the comet, over the next several weeks you'll want to look in the general area below the constellation Orion the Hunter. As of this posting, the comet is about 13 degrees beneath the brightest, lower right hand star in Orion known as Rigel; a blue supergiant at 772 light years away. The comet is currently in the constellation Lepus the Rabbit and will be traveling upwards relative to the horizon night over night following a path that will take it beneath the constellation Taurus the Bull and The Pleiades open cluster. I have made a few charts which may help locate the comet, they are included below.

Comet Q2 has brightened faster than many anticipated and while the comet is visible to the naked eye currently at around a magnitude of 5 (naked-eye brightness is generally accepted to be anything below magnitude 6), if you have them, definitely use binoculars to get a good look as the comet isn't very easy to spot without a dark sky and good vantage point.

The best time to view the comet will be between around 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM local time as the comet will cross due South around Midnight reaching an altitude of around the 30 degree mark. For the next few days, Orion and the comet will rise at around the same time so if you have a great view of Orion, you can probably also look for the comet. Please remember that the comet will move quickly across the constellations in the sky so adjust your viewing over the next several days as it moves towards the constellation Taurus.

Click on the image below for a larger view of the comet path over the next 15 days.


Site Update

Well, it was that time again. Updates. As you can see, one of the updates was a change in the sites theme. This change is something I've been meaning to take care of for a long time but hadn't found a theme that would function the way that I wanted in order to keep the articles easily accessible and displaying in a manner that wouldn't break things.

The catalyst for this was the simple fact that an update recently took the site offline for a few days over the holidays because I didn't have time to correct it. Now that I've corrected it, it was time to update the theme and start moving forward with the site again.

Hope everyone has been having a great holiday season and checking out all the heavenly happenings as of late, comets, meteor showers and the like!

R.I.P. John Dobson (Dobsonian Telescope Inventor)

I just heard the news that John Dobson, among many other things, the inventor of the Dobsonian telescope, passed away yesterday, January 15th 2014, at the age of 98.  I had the pleasure of two instances of significance with Mr. Dobson over the years.  The first, exposure to The Astronomer's book and video series from the early 90's which he had a clip in.  This clip was one of my very first exposures to astronomy (much thanks to Jim Lewis for sharing this back then) and certainly helped inspire my drive and desire to pursue astronomy and make it a part of my life in some manner (mainly toward a degree in the field).

JohnDobson_01The second, was an opportunity to actually meet him at an ASKC (Astronomical Society of Kansas City) event where he gave a presentation.  His presentation was good and I'm sure inspired and encouraged people in the room which he excelled at doing throughout his life.  It was a pleasure to know of and understand his contribution to the astronomical community and to have actually had the chance to meet him.

He leaves behind significant contributions to the community that are, pun and more intended,… astronomical in their impact.  The invention of the Dobsonian telescope is a monolithic contribution from the stand point that, for the first time, it placed small and especially large aperture telescopes into a price range that even casual hobbyists could afford.  Even today, a 16" dobsonian style telescope (this is huge) runs roughly $2,000 while other 16" aperture telescopes will typically run from $10,000 to $20,000 as a starting price.

The second and, in my opinion, even more important contribution was his personal one.  The amount of public outreach and interaction that John Dobson had over the years of his involvement, and founding, of the San Fransisco Sidewalk Astronomers is staggering to consider.  The shear number of people that he encouraged to look through his telescopes and share enjoyment of the universe around us is simply astounding.  As the AAL (Astronomy Associates of Lawrence) so aptly puts it "Astronomy IS the people's science" and John Dobson was a true master at bringing basic, awe inspiring, astronomy to the people.

John, after the run that you've had with life, and all the positive contributions you managed to make, I'd say you certainly deserve the break.  You'll definitely be missed for those contributions and your willingness to engage and share the spectacle with people, it's with great thanks and joy that I can say I had the opportunity to meet you.

RIP John Dobson (1915-2014)


Links to Additional Articles

College Astronomy Back Online

Some of you may have noticed the maintenance page up over the past few days.  This was due to a full site migration to another server, update and reconfiguration.  In any case, so far, so good, as it looks like the new site is up and running with the latest updates.  I will be considering other theme changes in the future depending on what can be found.

I'll be working on posting more content here as time permits both photography and problem work throughs.  Also, keep an eye out for upcoming Comet ISON updates that I'll be putting together over the next several weeks to help keep people informed.


Registrations Disabled

Due to a lack of easily available registration tools to prevent bots from registering I've decided that for now it is best to disable registration all together since I have yet to get a legitimate person registered on the site.

As such, if you do want an account, please either visit the chat and provide your username and e-mail (as long as I'm in the room you don't have to wait for me to see it, I'll get it) or simply e-mail me that information and I'll be happy to provide it.

Once adequate plugins are available I'll re-enable registrations.