Follow Comet Lovejoy into the high north during April

By Ade Ashford

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Despite receding from both the Earth and Sun, C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy exceeds its predicted brightness. The comet still sports an ion tail in this image captured on 10th March at 22:05 UT when the comet was about 6th magnitude. This is a cumulative five-minute ISO1600 exposure with a DSLR + C11 + Hyperstar at f/2. Image credit: Ade Ashford
Despite receding from both the Earth and Sun, C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is still around magnitude +7, exceeding its predicted brightness. Image credit: Ade Ashford
AN graphic by Ade Ashford
The track of c/2014 Q2 Lovejoy throughout April 2015. Click the image for a full-size version suitable for printing for use at the telescope. AN graphic by Ade Ashford
A circumpolar object for much of the British Isles since the beginning of February 2015, this means C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy hasn’t set over the UK since then. It continues its inexorable trek north through the constellation of Cassiopeia, passing into Cepheus on May 2nd. Then, late into the night of Wednesday, May 27th, Comet Lovejoy passes just 1.1° from the Pole Star, Polaris.

Currently hovering around magnitude +7, the comet’s brighter than predicted and a comfortable binocular object under moonless skies. Towards the end of April, dusk twilight has faded sufficiently by 10 pm (all times BST) for the centre of the British Isles to see Comet Lovejoy in an almost dark sky (the Moon notwithstanding).

At the fall of night, C/2014 Q2 is about 40° above the north-northwest horizon in the British Isles. As the Earth turns, Comet Lovejoy is carried below the celestial pole to approximately 40° above the northern horizon around 12:30 am, whereupon it starts to rise again in the north-northeast until the first signs of dawn twilight.

Observers using GoTo telescopes or instruments equipped with digital setting circles can use the following nightly equatorial coordinates to find Comet Lovejoy quickly:

30th April at 10 pm BST — α = 1h 28.3m δ = +76°54′ (J2000.0)

Inside the magazine

You can find out more about Comet Lovejoy in the April edition of Astronomy Now in addition to a full observing guide to the night sky.

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