Christmas may be bringing a lot more than just presents this year. According to new scientific reports, recently discovered Comet Lovejoy is heading our way and is currently on track to become visible in the sky starting in late December — just in time for the holidays!
Per Sky and Telescope, Comet Lovejoy, also designated C/2014 Q2, is the fifth comet to be discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. He first found it last August, but in the last few months, the comet has reportedly been moving closer to Earth and becoming brighter at a faster pace than expected. Amateur astronomers like Lovejoy have been tracking its approach, and in the last few days, the comet has reportedly become noticeably more visible. With Comet Q2 (as some are also calling it) expected to continue brightening in the coming days, Sky and Telescope reports it could reach “sixth magnitude” (aka the verge of naked-eye visibility) around December 26 and may even continue to brighten through mid-January.
Of course, even as the comet’s brightening continues to increase, it could be tough to spot unless you have exactly the right conditions. You’ll need to be somewhere with dark skies and away from any suburban lights to have a chance to see it without the help of binoculars.
Oddly enough, this is the third comet of Lovejoy’s to be visible around Christmas time. In 2011, Comet Lovejoy C/2011 W3 became visible in Australian skies around mid-December, and last year, Comet Lovejoy C/2013 R1 could be seen from the northern hemisphere throughout November and December. But though the current Comet Lovejoy, Q2, may only be seen faintly by Christmas, you should try to catch it anyway. Q2 apparently won’t return for about another 8,000 years or so — which means it’s this year or never to grab your family and your coats and head outside for a little sky viewing.