NEWS

Comet Lovejoy to make closest approach to Earth in 8,000 years

01/07/2015 05:00 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
It’s wispy, it’s bluish-green with a magnificent tail, and it’s streaking across the night sky this week. Comet Lovejoy, formally known as C/2014 Q2, has been making its way towards Earth from deep space. 

On Wednesday, the comet will reach its closest approach to the planet in roughly 8,000 years, posing a rare opportunity for those living in Metro Vancouver to see it with the naked eye.

"It’s going to be the closest it will be ever to the Earth, so that makes it brighter," H.R. Macmillan Space Centre astronomer Derek Kief told The Early Edition.

"But because we have a full moon now for the next little bit, it’s going to be contesting with that. As January progresses…it will be ‘less bright’, but because the full moon is going to be diminishing, we’ll be able to see it more."

Kief said sundown is the best time to try and spot Comet Lovejoy. Here are some of his best viewing tips:  

Look to the southwest for Orion constellation 

"The constellation of Orion kind of has three [stars] in the belt and it’s got two arms and two legs," explained Kief.

"The bottom right star is called Rigel — a very, very bright star…at the bottom right-hand corner of Orion. If you go out to the right a little bit, or a little more to the west, that’s where Comet Lovejoy will be.

"As the night progresses, as the month progresses, it’s going to be going higher and higher in the sky."

Get away from Vancouver's city lights

"Anywhere that’s south of the city so that the city lights are north of you, you should be able to see [Comet Lovejoy]," said Kief.

"If you can go to any kind of park that doesn’t have lights in the middle of the park... generally speaking, you get a lot better viewing."

Come equipped with binoculars or a telescope

"With the naked eye, [Comet Lovejoy] is going to look very, very faint," Kief said.

"It’s going to be very, very hard to see, so you kind of have to be looking at the right direction.

"But with a pair of binoculars or with a telescope, you’ll definitely be able to see it and you will probably be able to see the colour associated with it."

Will you be watching out for Comet Lovejoy? Send us your photos of the comet by email at cbcnewsvancouver@cbc.ca or on Twitter @cbcnewsbc.

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