Look Up and See: Waning Wolf Moon, Comet Lovejoy, Quadrantids Meteor Shower
So far, 2015 has been full of celestial delights: a comet, a meteor shower and a full moon!
Which means you’d better look up and see!
I am sure everyone noticed (and possibly howled at) the Wolf Moon in Cancer which was full Sunday night January 4. (Scroll down for more about 2015’s full moons!) We enjoyed the rising of this moon from the comfort of a soaking tub at Benton Hot Springs!
Now that the Wolf Moon is waning, you have a better chance to see the Quadrantids meteor shower which arrived January 1, but has been drowned out by the bright moon.
A very active meteor shower, the Quadrantids can have 25 or more meteors an hour–and some of them can be fireballs! Look for shooting stars before the moon rises from now until my birthday on Sunday 1/11/15.
While the full moon happens monthly, and meteor showers happen regularly as well, comets are NOT an every day occurrence which is what makes the appearance of Comet Lovejoy (pictured above) so exciting. In fact the last time Comet Lovejoy was in the neighborhood was 8,000 years ago–and we only knew of its existence since August 2014!
Heading toward Orion, Comet Lovejoy passes closest to earth today, January 7, and it is so bright you can see it with binoculars three to four hours after sunset with the best viewing before the waning Wolf Moon comes up or when it is still low on the horizon. Viewing will be good all weekend and possibly for the rest of the month as it heads toward the sun with its perihelion January 30.
To see Comet Lovejoy, find the three stars in a short, straight line that mark Orion’s belt. Make a 90-degree angle downward from Orion’s Belt to brilliant blue-white super-giant star Rigel. Look for the greenish spot: Comet Lovejoy.
According to APOD which posted this image on Christmas Day, “Credit & Copyright: Damian Peach/SEN Explanation: Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, is framed like a cosmic Christmas tree with starry decorations in this colorful telescopic portrait, snapped on December 16th. Its lovely coma is tinted green by diatomic C2 gas fluorescing in sunlight.”
Read more about Comet Lovejoy in the December 2014 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine or this January 7 article.
PS While you are looking skyward, look for Michele Serros. and if you see a shooting star, please wish a happy 50th birthday to my sister Laurie (hers is today!)