CHRISTMAS COMET: Is there a cylindrical package under your Christmas tree? Open it now. A small telescope is all you need to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Discovered just last August by Terry Lovejoy in Australia, the green comet is brightening faster than expected as it moves into northern skies just in time for Christmas. Trace the comet's tail down the page for more information:
Gerald Rhemann took this picture on Dec. 21st using a remotely-operated telescope in Namibia. The comet's sinuous blue ion tail contrasts beautifully with its puffy green atmosphere. The colors come from ionized carbon monoxide (CO+) and diatomic carbon (C2), which glow blue and green, respectively, in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space.
"Last night (Dec. 23rd), the comet was easy to see in binoculars as a 5th magnitude fuzzy star," reports Alan Dyer of New Mexico. "I could just see the comet naked eye knowing exactly where to look south of Orion in the constellation Columba the dove."