C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)
December 28, 2014: The first clear night in almost a full month occurred on a night with a 1st quarter moon. This comet has been moving northward and was finally in a nice location for viewing in this area.
The comet was found very easily in the telescope as well as in my 10x50 binoculars. In the small binos, the comet was obvious, but M79 was not seen. I could see both M79 and the comet very well in the 25x100's.
I had decided to only use 60x for my sketch (showing movement) and after an hour was almost regretting it. With two hours in between, the motion was obvious. It helps to have a star very near to the comet nucleus.
Comet Lovejoy was both larger (about 2x or more) than M79 as well as being brighter. The color contrast either made M79 appear more rusty white, or it made the comet appear more greenish-blue. Or both!
In addition to the bright moon, temps on this evening were low. Around 32* at sundown, and down to 26* by around 11pm. Frost was a problem, and it bugged everyone.
This is a nice comet that may be naked-eye visible once it hits perihelion (and the moon is out of the way). I doubt that it will sport a naked-eye visible tail (and perhaps not an optically-aided tail either). We shall see.
January 7, 2015, 7:50PM CST : With the bright moon finally exiting the evening scene, I ducked out the back door for some chilly binocular views of this comet tonight. It was about 0*F outside, so I did not sketch it. I found it easily in my 10x50's as a circular, silvery-green blob. When using averted vision, the size of the coma seemed to double! It had grown considerably in diameter since my last view in December. I also enjoyed a view with my 25x100 binoculars. In them it showed a more consistent light-green color, and was large, with an evenly-condensed coma. No p-nucleus and no tail seen.
9:40PM CST : Went back out with the 89% moon 30*+ high in the sky. I found the comet in the 10x50s after about 45 seconds. It took a little longer against the brighter sky background. The inner coma was about as bright as before (again, less contrast due to the brighter sky background) but I could not discern the extended coma as I had earlier in the evening. Likewise I could no longer discern any tint of color.
January 9, 2015, 8:04pm CST : The moon was out of the way until around 9:30pm, but it was still very cold. It was around 15*F. I ducked outside to the deck and observed in 10x50's and 25x100's. See drawing (right column). I made several efforts to try to observe a tail, but none seen. I had expected to record movement in the time before moonrise, but surprisingly I could not tell from my drawing. I blame my poor drawing skills, and the low magnification. Should have drawn it with the 25x100s!
I am fairly confident that I was able to detect it naked-eye just below Nu Tauri (see drawing), but only with averted vision. I could not discern it as a comet naked eye, only a barely noticeable dim 'star' or fuzzy. Without binoculars, I would not have been able to find it or tell what it was. So, it was not seen "as a comet" naked-eye. I would not (yet) tell anyone they could find this comet naked-eye from similar skies!
(( Click on the image below for an enlarged view.))
Nikon D40. 8 seconds, 200mm telephoto, ISO 1600, no tracking. (click on image to enlarge)
In binos the comet seemed to have a double coma, about 60-40 inner-outer. No p-nucleus seen, but the inner coma was very bright. The outer coma was not dim either. It stood out easily in the 10x50's and glowed nicely in the 25x100s. The coma was very round. I liken this comet's visual appearance to 17P/Holmes early on. Not the oblong or D-shaped Holmes as it grew larger. Color in the 10x50's was perhaps silvery but I could not discern any green. However, it definitely had a light green tint in the 25x100s.
I also took a few rank photos, and attached one here. Eight seconds was not nearly enough here to do the comet justice, but more certainly would have required tracking. My 13 second images had star trails that were way too long. I had debated setting up my SCT and piggybacking the camera. In retrospect I wish that I had. As the comet gets more Northerly it won't show star trails so badly. I found it funny that the comet was seen easily in the tiny viewfinder of my DSLR (200mm lens). It really doesn't take much help to see it decently. Its' greenish color easily evident in my photos. An outburst in the next week or so would be really cool.
Monday JANUARY 12, 2015 (9:10 - 10:25 PM CST)
The skies were better than forecasted, but bitterly cold (~20*F). I got my 10x50's and 25x100's out, and proceeded with them to our backyard deck for some quick views. In the 10x50's, Lovejoy was found easily but seemed dimmer than before, at first. I determined later that views were occasionally beguiled by thin cirrus clouds. Depending on where you looked at a point in time, the transparency was poor or excellent.
I decided to draw tonight's observations in the 25x100's, in order to ensure movement was recorded. There were few field stars, but there was one very near the coma, which made recording movement much easier to detect and to draw. I would only spend around 10 minutes at a time observing (before ducking into the house to warm up!), so it was in those final minutes of a quick session that my eyes were both getting better dark-adapted as well as glazing over! By moving the 25x100's up and down, I was able to discern (with averted vision) a VERY thin stubby tail to the Northeast, of maybe 1/2 degree. Not sure if it was the comet's inherent brightness, or the night's transparency, but I was also better able to notice the comet naked-eye (although not being able to discern that smudge as a comet by naked eye alone).
It occurred to me later that this comet might be my first that was BOTH a naked-eye comet AND viewed with a tail, but yet NOT with both simultaneously..... There is still time yet before perihelion (and perhaps afterwards) that may correct this anomaly.
JANUARY 16, 2015
I made the sketch and photo to the right at Danville Conservation Area. The comet was seen naked-eye and could be identified as a (tail-less) comet with no visual aid. The photo includes the Pleiades (Seven Sisters), and the comet is the fat, fuzzy turquoise-colored "Star" near the bottom. The photo was a 30 second exposure, ISO 1600, taken with a Nikon D40 and a 200mm zoom lens. The mount was a Celestar 8" SCT, upon which the camera was piggybacked, in order to track the stars. A close-up of the photo is shown below, mimicking my sketch above right. North is up.
Click on image to enlarge.
(click on image below to enlarge)
The tail did not show up in the 30 second exposure. This view of the comet itself was similar to the view in 10x50 binoculars.
January 23, 2015 (FNOH - Broemmelsiek)
I managed views of comet Lovejoy in 25x100s and my 8" SCT, nearly straight UP in Aries. In the 8", a very wide fan was barely perceptible on the Eastern side ("Western" FOV in SCT), along with a pinpoint pseudo-nucleus. In the 25x100s, the coma was once again seemingly dual (inner, outer), no p-nucleus, with a dim but detectable tail heading East. I did not sketch as I planned to take photos, but that was thwarted because of outreach efforts and equipment problems.
February 6, 2015 (home)
Part of me REALLY wanted to get out to Broemmelsiek tonight, and perhaps do a better job imaging this comet. The other part was pretty tuckered out and not feeling up to it. Guess which part won? I relegated myself to another visual observation and sketch from home, before moonrise at 8:19. The cool part was seeing it at 25x with Almach in the same FOV. The uncool part was that the tail was no longer seen. Perhaps I'll be able to get out tomorrow eve, before moonrise at 9:13.
This has been a fun comet to follow, and this winter has been mostly kind with regard to some few pleasant evenings.
March 7, 2015 (Broemmelsiek Park)
After a cold, very cloudy, snowy February, it was nice to finally get out even if only for an hour before moonrise (2+ days after full moon). This comet is still pretty bright, perhaps under mag 7 still. Tonight it was presented in the same bino field of view as NGC 457, which was super cool. Temps tonight were a mild 40*F, with a very slight breeze. It was very gratifying just to get out under a clear sky for a change.
This comet is not moving as fast now, so no movement noticed in an hour (at 25x). It has surprisingly stayed pretty bright, and is now best both in early evening and before sunrise, as it is now circumpolar.
April 10, 2015 (Danville MO)
Enjoyed an evening at Danville, but was testing out a problem on my scope. I took the time (9:15pm) to view Lovejoy, but did not draw it. My comments were "Still visible in 10x50 finder!" and "Pretty nice!".
May 18, 2015 (Danville)
After observing DSO's most of the evening, I took a stab at Comet Lovejoy. I did not have a "May" map, and had to interpolate from the April map. After only a couple of minutes I found it. This time just BARELY visible in my 10x50 finder. Shared a view with Mike Pusatera, and he detected a green color (once again signifying my deficiency in this regard...). The comet continues to approach Polaris, which will make it super easy to find in the coming week or so (until the Moon becomes obtrusive).
This comet has hung around very well for almost 5 months now. It has been fun to keep up with.