I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the inner solar system has a visitor.
This cosmic guest traveled from the icy depths of space and now basks in golden sunshine. These colorful wanderers intrigue humanity, causing us to blame our misfortunes on these uninvited guests. Wars… famines… sacrifice… are these symptoms of some malignant presence?
I’m talking about Comet Lovejoy! A strange green blob, easily visible in the northern night sky.
There’s some speculation that Comet Lovejoy may continue to brighten. Right now, I believe Comet Lovejoy is around magnitude 3.8. If you know where to look—Comet Lovejoy will appear as a dim star. Not very impressive, I must admit. I remember Comet Hale-Bopp, which was the first comet I ever observed. What year was it? 1996? 1997? Doesn’t matter, the point is, Comet Lovejoy may appear to be a little disappointing…
You have a telescope or binocular.
I encountered some technical difficulties while searching for Comet Lovejoy. I scanned a few maps eight hours before venturing outside, so needless to say, I didn’t exactly know where to look.
A binocular can bail you out of a jam. If the object is bright enough (which it was), all you need to do is scan a particular patch of sky and hope for the best. I know, I know, very scientific. Good news: my suspicion of where Comet Lovejoy proved to be correct.
My binocular resolved a fuzzy ball—it was Comet Lovejoy.
The binocular I used was a Orion 10×50, so my power was limited. I was still impressed with the view, despite the lack of telescopic magnification. Comet Lovejoy looked like a hairball—of the feline variety. I observed a scraggly wispyness, wrapped in a diffuse sphere. No tail was visible.
Comet Lovejoy is famous for its distinct greenish hue. The color is impressively apparent (with long exposure photography or very dark skies). Guess what? If you were unfortunate enough to inhale a whiff of Comet Lovejoy—eyes would bulge from your face—as noxious fumes dissolve the delicate walls around your cells. Just kidding. Kind of. Comets are notoriously poisonous: sunlight cooks up nefarious chemicals, resulting in a greenish bloom, or coma. Diatomic carbon atoms are easily excitable and emit the telltale glow as they simmer into a less energetic state.
Ultraviolet radiation brings out the worst in everything.
Do you want to know how to find Comet Lovejoy? Click—here.