Friday, 30 January 2015

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) reaches perihelion.


Comet C/2014 Q1 (Lovejoy) reached its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) on Friday 30 January 2015, when it will be 1.29 AU from the Sun (i.e. 1.29 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun). It is potentially visible to naked eye observers in the constellation of Aries, though it would be better to try to observe it with a pair of binoculars or small telescope. It will remain potentially visible to naked eye observers for the next week, moving into the constellation of Andromeda on 1 February. After this it will only be possible to view the comet with binoculars or a telescope from the Northern Hemisphere and not at all from the Southern Hemisphere. It will move into the constellation of Perseus on 15 February, then Cassiopeia on 1 March, Cephus on 8 May, Ursa Minor on 1 June, Draco on 22 July, Boötes on 15 August, Heracles on 8 September and Corona Borealis on 15 September, though by the northern summer it will be impossible to see it without a fairly large telescope.

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) as seen on 20 December 2014 from Australia. Roger Groom/Astrophotography.

Comet C/2014 (Lovejoy) was discovered on 17 August 2014 by Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy. The name C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) implies that it is a non-periodic comet (C/) (all comets are, strictly speaking, periodic since they all orbit the Sun, but those with periods longer than 200 years are considered to be non-periodic), that it was the second comet (comet 2) discovered in the second half of August 2014 (period 2014 Q), and that it was discovered by Lovejoy.

The calculated orbit of C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy). JPL Small Body Database Browser.

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is calculated to have a 13 914 year orbital period and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 80.3° to the plain of the Solar System that takes it from 1.29 AU from the Sun at perihelion (129% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun) to 1156 AU from the Sun at aphelion, which is 1156 times as far from the Sun as the Earth, over 38 times as far from the Sun as Neptune, 23 times as far from the Sun as the outer limit of the Kuiper Belt, but still within the inner Oort Cloud.

See also…

Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) passed the Earth at a distance of 0.56 AU (i.e. 56% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, about 84 million km) on Thursday 28 August 2014. This is not a close approach (it is further than the distance between Mercury and the...

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun)  on Wednesday 27 August 2014, though it will not be visible...

The Rosetta Spacecraft moved into position alongside Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on Wednesday 6 August 2014, the first spacecraft to reach a cometary target, and ten years after the mission was launched. It...



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