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As it heads towards the outer depths of the Solar System, comet Lovejoy remains visible with small telescopes and even good binoculars during March. Although now fading and past its best the comet has been a delight over recent months and should remain well within amateur astronomer range for some time to come. For a number of days in late December / early January it even was visible to the naked eye (peak mag. +3.9).

Lovejoy was the fifth comet to be discovered by prolific Australian comet hunter and amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. He captured it on August 17, 2014 using nothing more than a 200mm (8-inch) scope with a digital camera attached. The subsequent set of time-lapsed images revealed nothing just a faint point of light (mag. +15) that moved slightly from image to image.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy on February 21, 2015 (Damian Peach - www.damianpeach.com)

Location and star chart

Comet Lovejoy is now very much a Northern Hemisphere object as it continues to move in the direction of the North Celestial Pole. It spends the end of February in Perseus before crossing into Cassiopeia on the last day of the month. Magnitudes of comets are notoriously difficult to predict but we estimate on March 1st it will shine at +6.0 and therefore at the limit of naked eye visibility but easily seen with binoculars and small telescopes. For those located at southern temperate latitudes the comet is too far north to be seen at all.

From latitudes of at least 35 degrees north Lovejoy never sets during March and is visible all night. It's best seen during the middle two "Moonless" weeks of the month. Highlights include on March 10th when the comet passes 1 degree east of the brightest open cluster in Cassiopeia, NGC 457 the Owl Cluster (mag. +6.4). At magnitude +6.5, Lovejoy is fractionally fainter than the splendid open cluster. A few days later on March 16th it passes 0.1 degrees west of Ruchbah (δ Cas - mag +2.7). As the comet is expected to be more than 4 magnitudes fainter than the star it will probably be difficult to spot against the bright stellar glare. However, it should be easier to see over the next few evenings when it passes just west of two more bright open clusters, M103 (mag. +7.4) and NGC 663 (mag. +7.1). At closest separation Lovejoy is 1 degree from M103 and 3 degrees from NGC 663. It should be noted that Messier Catalogue hunters often mistakenly identify NGC 663 as M103!

The finder charts below show the positions of the comet from January 28th to April 1st, 2015.

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) Finder Chart from February 12th to April 1st, 2015

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) Finder Chart from February 12th to April 1st, 2015 - pdf format

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) Finder Chart from January 28th to March 1, 2015

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) Finder Chart from January 28th to March 1, 2015 - pdf format

C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) Data (at epoch December 9, 2014)

NameC/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)
TypeComet
DiscovererTerry Lovejoy
Discovery dateAugust 17, 2014
Perihelion (AU)1.29077
Eccentricity0.99809
Orbital period (years)~8000
Inclination (degrees) 80.3021
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)94.9937
Perihelion January 30th, 2015

Comet (C2014/Q2) Lovejoy Data Table

DateRight AscensionDeclinationMag.Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
February 25, 201501h 35m 15s53d 13m 24s+5.71.232Perseus
February 26, 201501h 34m 20s53d 37m 41s+5.81.250Perseus
February 27, 201501h 33m 28s54d 01m 34s+5.81.269Perseus
February 28, 201501h 32m 39s54d 25m 05s+5.91.287Perseus
March 01, 201501h 31m 52s54d 48m 16s+6.01.304Cassiopeia
March 02, 201501h 31m 08s55d 11m 09s+6.01.322Cassiopeia
March 03, 201501h 30m 27s55d 33m 44s+6.11.340Cassiopeia
March 04, 201501h 29m 48s55d 56m 04s+6.11.357Cassiopeia
March 05, 201501h 29m 11s56d 18m 09s+6.21.375Cassiopeia
March 06, 201501h 28m 37s56d 40m 01s+6.31.392Cassiopeia
March 07, 201501h 28m 05s57d 01m 41s+6.31.409Cassiopeia
March 08, 201501h 27m 34s57d 23m 10s+6.41.426Cassiopeia
March 09, 201501h 27m 06s57d 44m 30s+6.41.442Cassiopeia
March 10, 201501h 26m 40s58d 05m 40s+6.51.459Cassiopeia
March 11, 201501h 26m 16s58d 26m 43s+6.61.475Cassiopeia
March 12, 201501h 25m 54s58d 47m 39s+6.61.491Cassiopeia
March 13, 201501h 25m 33s59d 08m 29s+6.71.507Cassiopeia
March 14, 201501h 25m 14s59d 29m 14s+6.71.523Cassiopeia
March 15, 201501h 24m 57s59d 49m 54s+6.81.538Cassiopeia
March 16, 201501h 24m 42s60d 10m 31s+6.91.554Cassiopeia
March 17, 201501h 24m 28s60d 31m 05s+6.91.569Cassiopeia
March 18, 201501h 24m 16s60d 51m 36s+7.01.584Cassiopeia
March 19, 201501h 24m 05s61d 12m 06s+7.01.599Cassiopeia
March 20, 201501h 23m 56s61d 32m 35s+7.11.614Cassiopeia
March 21, 201501h 23m 48s61d 53m 04s+7.21.628Cassiopeia
March 22, 201501h 23m 41s62d 13m 33s+7.21.643Cassiopeia
March 23, 201501h 23m 36s62d 34m 03s+7.31.657Cassiopeia
March 24, 201501h 23m 32s62d 54m 34s+7.31.671Cassiopeia
March 25, 201501h 23m 29s63d 15m 06s+7.41.685Cassiopeia
March 26, 201501h 23m 27s63d 35m 40s+7.51.698Cassiopeia
March 27, 201501h 23m 26s63d 56m 17s+7.51.712Cassiopeia
March 28, 201501h 23m 26s64d 16m 56s+7.61.725Cassiopeia
March 29, 201501h 23m 27s64d 37m 39s+7.61.738Cassiopeia
March 30, 201501h 23m 30s64d 58m 24s+7.71.751Cassiopeia
March 31, 201501h 23m 33s65d 19m 14s+7.71.764Cassiopeia
April 01, 201501h 23m 37s65d 40m 08s+7.81.777Cassiopeia

See also

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) remains visible with binoculars and small telescopes during February 2015
How to see Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) during January 2015
Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) a naked eye comet for the New Year
Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) now visible with binoculars from Southern latitudes