Jul 15, 2019 | Updated: 10:46 AM EDT

So Long Lovejoy, See You in 8,000 Years

Jan 25, 2015 08:22 PM EST

Comet Lovejoy
(Photo : NASA)

After putting on quite a show in the night sky that delighted astronomers of all ages across the world, it is finally time to bid farewell to the comet Lovejoy.  This past Saturday night was the last time that sky-watching enthusiasts had the opportunity to witness Comet Lovejoy with the naked eye, and there won't be another chance to catch this unique comet for the next 8,000 years.

Observatories everywhere encouraged visitors to join them in viewing the spectacular comet on Saturday while there was still time.  Comet Lovejoy is unique because of its interesting green and fuzzy light, setting it apart from all other comets. 

The "fuzzy little cotton ball of light that differs from the stars," as the LA Griffith Observatory describes it, isn't particularly brilliant, as you'd expect other comets to be.  However, the fuzziness and unique green glow of the comet made it a social media sensation, as observers everywhere were sharing snapshots of the curious green dot in the night sky.

This social media sensation was first discovered by Terry Lovejoy, an amateur astronomer who was searching the sky one summer night.  Lovejoy was surprised by the reaction that the comet has received, especially since the four other comets he found did not garner anything close to this much attention.  "In the last week and a half I've had at least a thousand Facebook friend requests," said Lovejoy in an interview.

Before flying out of sight, comet Lovejoy had transitioned to approximately two-thirds of the way above the horizon.  For comet seekers to catch a glimpse of it, they had to first identify the Pleaides and then turn to the right to view the green glow.

Edwin Krupp, astronomer and director of the LA Griffith Observatory, said that the comet's tail would not be visible on Saturday, however, the greenish glow of the comet itself would be enough.

On January 7, the Comet Lovejoy came closest to Earth at approximately 44 million miles away.  However, it's not how close it is to our planet that made it visible to the naked eye.  In fact, it was how close it got to the sun that made viewing possible.   On January 30, the comet will reach its closest point to the sun.

The comet was an astronomer's dream to watch, as it hasn't graced us with its presence for 13,000 years and won't return again for another 8,000.  If you missed it or you are searching for something else to watch in the night sky, be on the lookout for asteroid 2004 BL86.  It will be whizzing by our planet on Monday and should easily be visible for sky-watchers everywhere.

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