As ISON Has Fizzled, Comet Lovejoy Remains Visible


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Comet ISON has faded from sight, again, and astronomers are not expecting it to light up again. ISON rounded the sun yesterday at 18:45 UTC/ 1:45 p.m. EST, and appeared to be disintegrating. Some hold out hope it will show itself again, but nobody knows for sure.

But as ISON fades, another comet is quietly showing its tail, the Lovejoy Comet.

The newest comet was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, hence the name, in December 2011.

In late November, Comet Lovejoy was near the bottom of the handle of the Big Dipper.

Comet Lovejoy, designated C/2013 R1 was found to the southeast of the constellation Orion and 1,600 times too faint to be seen without a scope.

Now, the new comet is brightening as it heads toward the sun and will arrive at its closest point on Dec. 22 at a distance of 75.4 million miles away from Earth. This is when Comet Lovejoy will be most visible by the naked eye.

While it is en route to its Dec. 22 rendezvous with the sun, Lovejoy will make its closest approach with Earth on Tuesday, when it will pass within 36.9 million miles of us.

The Big Dipper should be your guide for seeing Comet Lovejoy, and although it's not certain it will be visible without binoculars or telescope, due to the moon's cycle, it will be best to view on Sunday night. Stargazers will be able to locate Comet Lovejoy, just before dawn.

Comet Lovejoy and Comet ISON will pass each other between Dec. 18 and 20. They won’t get much closer than 10 degrees from one another, and Lovejoy should be just a faint, fuzzy blob, while observers hope that Comet ISON will have evolved into a lovely celestial showpiece by then.

Image via NASA