Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy

Charles Messier was a famous French astronomer whose obsession with hunting comets led him to elaborate a list of 110 deep sky objects. Today, he is more famous for his list than the 13 comets he discovered. The power of the telescopes he used were equivalent to today’s short aperture telescopes which are considered for many people in the astronomical community as just below the amateur level telescopes.

In most small aperture telescopes globular clusters and comets can seem similar, like fuzzy balls in the sky. The best way to confirm the presence of a comet in the sky is by collecting enough information to provide a sense of detectable motion among the stars. With today’s technology this task is much easier because pictures allow a discoverer to detect motion in an easier way than doing visual observation through several nights. In the past centuries, Astronomers could not count on photographic help   so they had to record their observations through several nights perhaps also using sketches.

Once I knew about Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2, the 5th comet discovered by the Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, I wanted to track it with my binoculars while it shined over 4th and 5th magnitudes. I could see it at least 5 times in December and at least 2 times in January when the weather and I allowed it (sometimes it was so cold that I did not want to go outside). I got to sketched it twice, with 10 days of difference between. Definitely, it was slightly brighter on the 20th of December, but also it was in a slightly darker part of the sky in Lijiang.

Initially I was planning to sketch it once, but on the 30th of December there was a “conjunction” with M79, so I decided to compare how bright it seemed compared the globular cluster. There was an enormous difference in apparent magnitude between the two objects as you can see in the sketch. I have the “feeling” of having seen the comet tail, but, being honest, I could not adapt well my night vision since there were a lot of artificial lights around and therefore it could be just a “feeling” than a real view.

This is the second Comet I have seen and this one seemed much brighter than ISON. I wished to make a last sketch these days when the apparent magnitude of Lovejoy had dropped considerably, but unfortunately the rainy season started and the clouds haven’t stop to cover the sky. I hope I will be able to another time.

God bless you!


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)


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