This appears to be a nice comet! I hope to observe it some more, and perhaps be able to see irrefutable tail (!).
Friday, Nov 1, 2013Lovejoy was found very easily, high in the sky between Procyon and M44 (The Beehive), just a FOV or two above beta Cancri. I thought I observed a very faint but broad tail, WSW, in the 10x50's. Further observation in the 25x100's included several tiny, dim stars in the "tail" area, and the dim remainder of the (magnified) thinned-out 'tail' left some doubts. My bottom line is that I think I observed tail on this comet, but I won't count it as a one-observation record. I will get it again. This is a nice comet. In my 25x100's, the color was noticeably a faint greenish, but under-whelmingly so. Perhaps gray with a strong tint of green.
I set my alarm for 3:30 AM CDT and was out the door and on the road by 3:45AM. I was packing only my two pair of binoculars (10x50 and 25x100's) since I had an appointment that morning and not enough time to unload the telescope and make that appointment. I had agonized the night before on going to Broemmelsiek "with" my 16" scope and light-polluted Eastern horizon, or driver further to Whiteside MO with a nice Eastern horizon but armed only with a maximum of 4" aperture. I think that I made the right choice. My goal was to try to see four comets (Lovejoy, ISON, Encke, and X1-Linear) this morning. It did not happen. I believe that I would have gotten ISON and Encke if I had my scope. From what I've read, they are smallish still. However, by not getting Encke this morning I may not be able to view it twice.
Sunday, Nov 3, 2013
Due to the end of Daylight Savings Time, I had to set my alarm for 2:30AM in order to give my best effort to these comets, of which 3 culminated at around 4:00AM now. I made the nearly one-hour drive to Danville and met Dan C. and Bill B. there. Once my scope was set up, I grabbed my 10x50's and found Comet Lovejoy in a few seconds. In the 25x100's, it's coma was once again noticeably greenish-gray. A very bright coma made color possible for my eyes to see.
After initially not seeing tail, I decided to move the telescope across the FOV sideways (North-South) to see if anything showed up in my averted vision. It did. Very, very faint, but something was there. Meanwhile, the diffuse outer coma seems to disappear/fade at higher mags.
This comet is high in the sky and well-placed for observing well, unlike the others. It is very near peak magnitude now (leveling off), due to its' closest earth-distance on Nov. 23, despite that its' perihelion is Dec 25th. It will soon be cruising past the Beehive (M44), which would make a good photo-op. This one should be observable from the 'Burbs for several weeks yet to anyone who would care to set an alarm and go out to the yard with binos.
Thursday Nov 7, 2013
Woke up early. Observed this comet from my backyard just after 5AM easily with 10x50s. Appeared to be slightly elliptical with a brighter nucleus, in the same FOV as the Beehive. Pretty cool. Was not seen naked-eye (sans binos), but it is probably pretty close. In 25x100s it showed a greenish-gray color and appeared more circular, with an inner and outer coma (no sharp p-nucleus). I tried and failed to observe X1 Linear in binos from home. I did not attempt Encke nor ISON (no current charts at hand). So, not well-prepared. Hope to try again tomorrow.
Wednesday Nov 13, 2013
Got up 30 minutes early for my workout and drove to Wentzville for a decent Eastern horizon. I parked in an undeveloped street near the gym and dug out the 10x50's. Comet Lovejoy was easily spotted just above the top star in Leo's head (Mu Leonis). It was a very good star field to draw. I also managed to also spot ISON (in 25x100's) on this morning, but failed to locate Encke or Linear X1. It was very cold (20 degF) and after around 20 minutes I was 'done'.
Wednesday Nov 27, 2013
The skies finally cleared again and I gave myself all of 15 minutes to check up on comet Lovejoy. It was very cold, around 18-19 degF with a slight wind. It took all of about 10 seconds to find this comet in Canes Venatici with the 25x100's. It was a LOT bigger than the last time I'd seen it. Not only that, but a broad tail was plainly visible. In direct vision, the tail was about as long as the coma was wide. The tail doubled in length with averted vision. Not too shabby for a binocular view! I also tried with my 10x50s. It was again easy to spot the comet. Large coma, but now without easy discernment of a tail. As this was in an "orange" zone just one day after the Last Quarter Moon, I'm pretty sure that 10x50s in a darker viewing site would have made a nice sight of this tail.
Considering how cold it was, I was kinda glad I had not allowed myself more time. I also learned that I need to keep observing this comet in the next couple of weeks. It may turn out to be even better than comet ISON.
Friday Nov 29, 2013
The CSC predicted "very light blue" for this morning, but when I got dressed I saw plenty of stars outside and grabbed the big binos. Within about 10 seconds I found it (no maps) and managed a very quick sketch on the back of a business card. The coma seemed a bit brighter than two days ago, but the tail was shorter, in spite of a waning crescent moon. After the sun came up, some thin upper-level cirrus gave me a reason to think it may have been the culprit.
The tail was visible, although MUCH dimmer than the coma, with direct vision. However, today I could not discern any more tail with averted vision. I will also say that I had a streetlight just 15 feet behind me, and a neighbor's garage light facing me while I was observing this comet. No p-nucleus today, but a gradually-condensing coma that was pretty bright. I did not observe it naked-eye nor in 10x50s.
Saturday Nov 30, 2013
Dressed quickly at 5:40AM and grabbed the big 25x100s and went out on my deck behind the house. Lovejoy was VERY nice today. The tail was pretty faint, but much longer today (about 3x the size of the coma, which itself is pretty substantial in size to begin with). I might have detected the coma naked-eye, but was uncertain. Drew the FOV then went back out with the 10x50's. Tail was noted in the smaller binos, but just at the limit of detecting. Moon was up, but only 7% illuminated. No sky trash this morning (unlike yesterday). Tail was dimmer than shown in the sketch at right (scan made it darker).
Went out AGAIN this evening to Broemmelsiek Park, armed with 25x100's, 8" SCT, and camera on tripod. Best effort was with big binos. The comet was only about 15-20 degrees up once darkness set in. Unfortunately, it was really soupy down low. Only the coma was observed at 25x. At 160x in the SCT, the coma thinned out into an irregular oblong. Given the conditions, I decided it was not a view respectable enough for a sketch.
Sunday Dec 1, 2013
Getting pretty used to arguing with myself when the 5:30 alarm goes off, debating the value of all this, and losing. The skies were pretty good, although not quite as great as yesterday. That was made up for by a great star field in the FOV. My home location is surrounded by trees, but Lovejoy is still (yet) clearing them, about 35-40 degrees up at 5:50 AM. The tail today was a bit subdued, but not much. Probably due to seeing conditions, but hard to tell for sure. Gamma Boo ("Nekkar") was in the FOV. Lovejoy will soon be in the trees in the AM from home as the comet moves thru Bootes into Hercules soon.
Saturday Dec 7, 2013
Did not set my alarm. Needed my sleep. It didn't matter. I knew there was a good chance it would be clear this morning. The stars were out, and it was 15 degF out side. Brrr! I grabbed the big binos and went out on the deck. Corona Borealis was too low in the trees at 5:35, and would not clear them in time. Still, I could make out some fuzziness in the branches with the binos.
Out front next, in my driveway. The streetlight was very bright, and close. I quickly found comet Lovejoy, but the glare from the streetlight was awful. Big binos are tough to hand-hold, and now I had to cup the left eyepiece (to shield out the glare) and balance the remainder with my right hand. It helped greatly. Now I could make out tail, although very faintly. I expect a dark site, with dark adaptation, would have yielded perhaps twice the tail length. Coma was around mag 4.5, but the tail was perhaps mag 7-8.
The moon had shrunk down to a sliver, only 2 days before New Moon. This comet was now only 8 days past its' perihelion (Dec 22) which took it about as close to the Sun as the orbit of Venus (Lovejoy - 67MM miles). It was long past its' closest approach to Earth though.
It did not disappoint. The tail structure and magnitude of this comet was still very good. I estimated the overall magnitude at around 5.5. I also estimated an order of magnitude difference between the coma and the 1st third of the tail (easily seen), another order of magnitude difference in the 2nd or middle third of the tail (needed averted vision), and likewise for the last third (strained A-V). I estimate the tail (visually) stretched around 1/2 degree.
It was VERY cold out! About 10 degF this morning. The skies were very transparent, showing stars low to the horizon, and 5 of the 6 Little Dipper stars with direct vision. Only the thin moon and the temp deterred things somewhat.