Two Comets for New Year

Comets Lovejoy and Finlay in January and February

A pair of comets grace the cold winter skies, but one is easier to see than the other. Lovejoy is climbing steadily towards 4th magnitude and was easy in binocs on Dec 29 when it was between magnitude 5 and 6 and slipped past the small globular cluster M79 (magnitude 8.5).

The other comet, Finlay is much fainter. The outburst in mid December has faded and it is back to 10th magnitude and predicted to not get much brighter than that. Both are visible in the early evening in late January and February and both are in the same general area of sky. By the end of the first week of February, Lovejoy becomes circumpolar and is visible all night long.

The finder chart shows the position at 8 pm EST of each comet from Jan 20 to Mar 6 and the position of Venus, Mars and Uranus on Mar 6, 2015. Note that the Crescent Moon is less than a degree from Finlay on Jan 23 and brightens the sky for the next week or so. Once it passes full and starts to rises later there is a wider window for observing these now fading objects.

C Lovejoy Finlay Jan 20-Mar 6

Image c/o Starry Night Education www.starrynighteducation.com