Lovejoy has spotted 5 comets from his rooftop in Thornlands, Queensland, Australia, and this latest one is going to be even brighter than predicted, although not as spectacular as one of his previous discoveries in 2011. Due to its location and brightness this comet is set to be easy to spot even without the aid of stargazing equipment.
Comet Lovejoy will pass approximately 70 million kilometers (44 million miles) from Earth on 7 January, and its peak brightness of around 4thmagnitude will make it easily observable in dark skies. The fact that it will pass close to the constellation of Orion is an additional aid for those on the lookout.
Astrophotographers can expect some great shots as the comet passes by Taurus and the Pleiades, too. For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere the comet will get gradually higher in the sky as it moves roughly north.
Phil Plait of Slate recommends that stargazers wait until a couple of hours after sunset to look for the comet. The comet is now high in the sky by the time it gets dark, but the light of the nearly full moon makes it tougher to spot.
For more detailed information on observing the comet you can find maps of its path on Sky and Telescope. If visibility is limited or the cold weather is discouraging you from spending time outdoors, you can visit the Virtual Telescope Project, which will be broadcasting live viewings on 6 and 11 January 2015.
Although in existing photos the comet appears to be green, Plait claims that it was more gray when he saw it with his naked eye. Many comets glow green because of how their constituent molecules react to light from the sun, and photos taken using long exposures can exaggerate this green tinge.
This is probably the last time we will get to see the comet, which is on a relatively long-period orbit of around 14,000 years, taking it to 90 billion kilometers away from the Sun. Spotting the comet is made easier because the comet’s orbit is at an 80° angle to those of the planets, aiding stargazers, especially those in the Northern Hemisphere.