Comet Lovejoy set to dazzle Jan. 7

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Amazing Photo of Recently Discovered Comet Lovejoy


By Zain Haidar

A celestial surprise is coming at the end of the New Year's first week, and the man behind its discovery has an interesting background.

Australian Terry Lovejoy has a prolific record among amateur astronomers.

To date, the Queensland native has discovered five comets, all using relatively simple equipment compared to what you'd find at a professional observatory.

Lovejoy's latest sighting, C/2014 Q2, was spotted on Aug. 17 from the astronomer's roof in Brisbane, Australia. Lovejoy's comet is back in the news as it draws closer to Earth, providing a nighttime show to observers with binoculars and telescopes.

(MORE: The Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend, But Here's Why It Might Be Tough to See)

Now dubbed Comet Lovejoy, the celestial body is surprising astronomers by brightening at a quick pace, CBS News says.

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Comet Lovejoy set to dazzle Jan. 7
Japan, Tokai Region, Shizuoka Prefecture, Fujinomiya-shi, View of Lovejoy comet with Mt.Fuji. (Photo by: JTB/UIG via Getty Images)
In this image provided by NASA the Comet Lovejoy is visible near Earth's horizon in this nighttime image photographed by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, onboard the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2011. Burbank described seeing the comet three nights ago as "the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space," in an interview with WDIV-TV in Detroit. (AP Photo/NASA, Dan Burbank)
In this image provided by NASA the Comet Lovejoy is visible near Earth's horizon in this nighttime image photographed by NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, onboard the International Space Station on Dec. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/NASA, Dan Burbank)
Japan, Tokai Region, Shizuoka Prefecture, Fujinomiya-shi, View of Lovejoy comet with Mt.Fuji. (Photo by: JTB/UIG via Getty Images)
This handout image provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, taken, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, shows the Comet Lovejoy leaving the sun's corona which is several million degrees. A small comet survived what astronomers figured would be a sure death when it danced uncomfortably close to the broiling sun Thursday night. Comet Lovejoy, which was only discovered a couple of weeks ago, was supposed to melt as it came so close to the sun that the temperatures around it would hit several million degrees. Astronomers had tracked 2,000 other sun-grazing comets make the same suicidal trip. None had ever survived. (AP Photo/NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory)
Comet Lovejoy passing through the constellation of Ursa Major 37 million miles from Earth November 19, 2013. Lovejoy is currently inbound toward the sun and will reach perihelion between Earth and Venus on Dec.22.
Comet Lovejoy over Santiago de Chile
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And there's more in store for nighttime viewers.

At its current levels of brightness, Lovejoy can be spotted with the naked eye.

Comet Lovejoy started off at magnitude 15 brightness and has since reached magnitude 5, the brightness necessary to be seen without the aid of a telescope. On the astronomical magnitude scale, lower numbers indicate more intense brightness.

As National Geographic reports, comet Lovejoy should hit magnitude 4.1 sometime mid-January, which would mean that sightseers could spot traces of the comet "from light-polluted city suburbs."

Some observers were able to spot Lovejoy in late December as it reached magnitude 5.3. In photos taken by astronomers, Lovejoy glows green. This striking color is due to two gases emanating from the comet: cyanogen and diatomic carbon, which both glow green when sunlight passes through them.

According to CBS News, Lovejoy will be closest to Earth on Jan. 7. After that time, Lovejoy will start to move away from Earth and lose its intensity, but astronomers predict that observers will still be able to catch glimpses of the comet throughout January.

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