Buffeted by the solar wind, Comet Lovejoy's crooked ion tail stretches over 3 degrees across this telescopic field of view, recorded on February 20. The starry background includes awesome bluish star Phi Persei below, and pretty planetary nebula M76 just above Lovejoy's long tail. Also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, after its brighter cousin M27 the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 is only a Full Moon's width away from the comet's greenish coma. Still shining in northern hemisphere skies, this Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is outbound from the inner solar system some 10 light-minutes or 190 million kilometers from Earth. But the Little Dumbbell actually lies over 3 thousand light-years away. Now sweeping steadily north toward the constellation Cassiopeia Comet Lovejoy is fading more slowly than predicted and is still a good target for small telescopes.
Presently, astronomers only have a short period of observations to forecast the comet's path through the inner solar system and they know the probability of Mars "taking one for the celestial team" on Oct. 19, 2014, is small — in all likelihood the comet will fly by, creating a wonderful astronomical event for Earth and Mars-based observers alike.
Esa's Rosetta mission is currently making its way towards a comet in the solar system.
And, in a series of stunning new images, it reveals how comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has begun to develop into an exciting ball of dust and gas.
Over a period of six weeks the comet has begun to extend its dusty veil known as a 'coma' into space.
Comet Lovejoy, C/2014 Q2, is framed like a cosmic Christmas tree with starry decorations in this colorful telescopic portrait, snapped on December 16th. Its lovely coma is tinted green by diatomic C2 gas fluorescing in sunlight. Discovered in August of this year, this Comet Lovejoy is currently sweeping north through the constellation Columba, heading for Lepus south of Orion and bright enough to offer good binocular views. Not its first time through the inner Solar System, this Comet Lovejoy will pass closest to planet Earth on January 7,