Comet Lovejoy is being dubbed the New Year's comet, and it can be seen in the skies above North America through the end of December and beginning of January.

Lovejoy is known to astronomers as Comet C/2014 Q2, and it is currently shining with a brightness measured at a magnitude of five. This makes the astronomical body about as bright as the dimmest stars seen from Earth with the naked eye. By January, Comet Lovejoy is expected to brighten to magnitude four (brighter objects are assigned lower magnitudes). At this time, the tail of the comet should be visible to anyone under skies dark enough to reveal 500 or more stars, appearing slightly dimmer than the Andromeda Galaxy.

Since its discovery, Comet Lovejoy has grown brighter than expected, and doing so more quickly than astronomers had calculated, based on early observations. Currently, the comet is expected to reach it's maximum brightness on January 7. A new Moon on January 4 will interfere with observations that night. However, three days later, our natural satellite will not be seen in the sky until about an hour after twilight, providing amateur astronomers with a chance for prime observations of the comet soon after sunset. The comet will appear as a glowing green globe, and one or more tails may be seen coming off the frozen object.

Comet Lovejoy will be found just beneath the constellation of Orion in early January, and will travel higher in the sky and slightly to the "right" by two degrees each evening. On the night of the 7th, the comet will be just to the right of the bright star Rigel, the left foot of Orion. A week later, it will be about level with Orion's head.

"The comet is approaching Earth and will pass nearest our planet on January 7th at a distance of 43.6 million miles," Bob King wrote for Universe Today.

Binoculars are the tool of choice for any amateur astronomer heading out to view comets. These instruments have a wide field-of-view, making it simple to find comets, and view the expanse of the target's tails. An ideal pair of binoculars for astronomy will have a wide objective (main) lens, allowing as much light as possible to enter the instrument. However, large binoculars can be heavy, so placing them on a tripod can steady the image, and make observations more enjoyable.

Comets are icy snowballs, composed of water and frozen gases, along with carbon and a myriad of other components. They are remnants of the birth of our Solar System, and contain some of the oldest material still found among our family of planets.

Terry Lovejoy, an astronomer in Australia, first found the comet on August 17, 2014. This is the fifth comet he has discovered since 2007.

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