Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is now a naked-eye object. Science journalist and longtime comet watcher Mariano Ribas of the Planetario de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, reports that “Comet Lovejoy has reached magnitude 5.0, just above the threshold for human visibility from dark-sky sites. Even in the light polluted sky of Buenos Aires, the comet is a very easy object in 10×50 binoculars.”
Roughly speaking, the comet is passing south of the constellation Orion. Finder charts from Sky & Telescope will help you find it in the midnight sky. For accurate pointing of telescopes, an ephemeris from the Minor Planet Center is available.
For astrophotographers interested in “beauty shots,” Comet Lovejoy has a marvelous pallette. The sinuous blue ion tail both contrasts and compliments the comet’s puffy green atmosphere. These colors come from ionized carbon monoxide (CO+) and diatomic carbon (C2), which glow blue and green, respectively, in the near-vacuum of interplanetary space.
“Looking the behaviour of this comet over the past month, I think that it will brighten to magnitude 4.5 or even 4.0 in the first week of 2015,” predicts Ribas. If so, the show has just begun.