The recently discovered Comet LoveJoy will be peaking in brightness sometime after January 7, 2015 (when it makes its closest approach to the earth), and before January 20, according to recent reports.
The comet is actually already visible to the naked eye when observed from most dark rural locations late at night (if you’ve got binoculars, though, it’s much easier). As it stands, the comet (C/2014 Q2) is at about magnitude ~5, and is expected to brighten to around magnitude 4.1 by the middle of January — which means, to the level where it can be seen (just barely) even from light-polluted city skies. Of course, that also means that when seen from a dark location the show should be pretty impressive.
Comet LoveJoy serves as a good example of just how unpredictable comets can be — last year’s Comet ISON was heavily hyped and turned into something of a dud, while LoveJy wasn’t even known to exist until very recently but should put on nice show (and is already, somewhat).
Those looking to find the comet should direct their eyes towards the west of the constellation of Orion, to the constellation of Eridanus (and later in the month to Taurus, and then Aries) — for those in the northern hemisphere, this means towards the southern horizon (southeastern-ish) at night.
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Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy 28th December 2014 from Phil Hart on Vimeo.
As the week progresses, though, Comet LoveJoy will climb higher and higher into the night’s sky. With the moon set to start fading in a couple of days, it should also become easier and easier after that point to spot the comet.
The best time to look for the comet, for most observers, this month will probably be in the early evening hours — so you don’t necessarily have to (or want to) stay up into the middle of the night.
Image Credit: Screen Capture