|Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is visible to sky watchers using binoculars on clear nights in January 2015. (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)|
California sky watchers may be able to see two celestial bodies zooming past Earth in the next few days with just a pair of binoculars.
If they’re savvy.
Comet Lovejoy, which won’t be back for 8,000 years, is visible in the night sky, and on Monday an asteroid as wide as five football fields will make a near-Earth flyby.
|This image of Lovejoy combines a series of observations to show the comet, in red, moving across the sky. (NASA/JPL)|
The asteroid may be more challenging to spot, but “comet Lovejoy is easy,” says astronomer Edwin Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory. Still, he adds, it’s subtle. Its distinguishing characteristic is its fuzziness.
At 8 or 9 p.m. Saturday — or any clear night through the end of this month — pick up a pair of binoculars and scout the sky.
“Look straight at the Pleaides, take your binoculars and sweep almost horizontally toward the right…. With binoculars, you’ll feel like you’re moving past a lot of stars…. Look for a fuzzy little cottonball of light that differs from the stars in that area.”
The comet’s tail won’t be visible, Krupp said. And although Lovejoy has a greenish glow, that will be difficult to see.
“It’s not really brilliant. What’s distinctive is it does look fuzzy.”
The comet made its closest passage to Earth on Jan. 7, when it was 44 million miles away, according to the astronomer, but moving closer to the sun has kept it bright.