Updated "Find Comet Lovejoy with binoculars" - Jan 16 thru 22

Jan 14

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1/14/2015 9:12 PM  RssIcon

Comet Lovejoy remains quite bright and easy to find with binoculars of 7x35 or larger under most skies. The comet does not dim appreciably, but over the next 7 days or so, it is very near to the easily found Pleiades. It isn't quite within a single binoculars field of view (typically 7 degrees or so), but it is close enough that making the "hop" over to it should not be too difficult.

Check out the day by day descriptions of how to find the comet at the bottom of this post. First, here's the large, wide field view so you can get oriented (look mostly south, around 8 pm or so for most people). 

Comet Lovejoy wide field star chartThe Pleiades make the better "jump off" point for the next 7 days or so. Note that just like in the prior post, the day where each "dot" is on the map is the date at 0:00 (midnight) for UTC time. That means for most observers in North America, that will be the spot around 7:00 or so THE DAY BEFORE. So that means when you go out to look on the evening of Jan 18, look for the Jan 19 spot if you're looking in the early evening. 

Here is the star chart to find Comet Lovejoy for Jan 16 through Jan 22, 2015:

Find Comet Lovejoy Jan 16 thru Jan 22 2015

Day by day star hop notes for Comet Lovejoy

Jan 16: Look at the Pleiades. Many people think they look like a tiny "dipper" shape. The lone star that makes the "handle" is Atlas. The two "dipper" stars closer to Atlas are Alcyone (top of dipper) and Merope (bottom); the two further ones are Taygeta (top) and Electra (bottom). Look at Alcyone and Merope; these two stars point almost directly at Comet Lovejoy this evening, and the comet is only about 8 degrees away from the Pleiades - just barely beyond one binocular or finderscope field of view. It will be about 2 degrees below 4-th magnitude Delta Arietis. 

Jan 17: Follow the same line as Jan 16, but this time, look for 4-th magnitude Delta Arietis. The comet will be 1 degree away from this star, and on the Pleiades side of Delta this night. It is a similar distance from the Pleiades as the night before - about 8 degrees. Trust your instincts, move your binoculars or finderscope in that direction, and just after the Pleiades leaves the field of view, the comet should appear on the opposite side.

The First Light GuidesJan 18: Tonight try hopping from that "handle" star of the Pleiades - Atlas - and draw a line through the bottom, closer "dipper" star of Merope. Follow that line out 9 degrees, and the comet will be in the field. Delta Arietis will be below the comet in this view (above if using a reversed-image finderscope).

Jan 19: Instead of jumping from the Pleiades for this night, us it as a reference point instead. Located 2.0 magnitude Hamal in Aries the Ram. You will be looking from the Pleiades in the direction of the Great Square of Pegasus. The comet is not quite halfway between the Pleiades and Hamal tonight; it is only a degree and a half off midway. That will place it easily within a 5 to 7 degrees binoculars or finderscope field of view, just by aiming between the Pleiades and Hamal. 

Jan 20: Use the same technique as Jan 19; while the comet will have move up in relation to it's position the night before, splitting the difference between the Pleiades and Hamal will still place your optics with the comet in view. 

Jan 21: There are not any particularly easy star hops on this night. If you have dark enough skies, look for 3.6 magnitude 41 Arietis. The comet is one degree closer to the Pleiades from this star, so that is the easiest way to locate it. If not, try looking from the Pleiades, and head in the direction of Beta Andromedae. You will need to move about two full binoculars fields of view to reach the comet's location. 

Jan 22: Follow the instructions for Jan 21. The comet will be slightly above 41 Arietis, but still only 1 degree or so away from it. 

Looking for more in the night sky? Check out the "First Light Guides" here at Eyes on the Sky to find lots of stationary deep sky objects with most any small telescope. 

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.