Comet Lulin is coming this week, and it may well be visible by the naked eye, or at the least with a pair of binoculars. We’ve made a Lulin skymap to make finding it as easy as finding a needle in a needle shop.
Lulin skymap, click to enlarge.
Map created with images from Worldwide Telescope
Comet Lulin, named after the Lulin Observatory in Taiwan that discovered it in 2007, will be at it’s closest to Earth on 24th Feb, just 38 million miles away (Mars is 34 million miles away at its closest).
On 23rd Feb it will be 2 degrees below Saturn (about 4 moon diameters).
To find it, use our sky map above (click to open). Find The Plough (or Big Dipper) in the night sky, which is shaped like a saucepan, follow the two inner stars of the saucepan down (yellow line) till you hit the bright-ish star of Regulus. You’ll know when you hit Regulus because it forms the bottom of a backwards question-mark, also known as The Sickle (of Leo). Diagonally down to the left is the bright yellowish light of Saturn, and it should be equivalent to four moon diameters below it. Look for a greenish fuzzy patch, perhaps with a slight tail. By the 27th it will be just half a degree (one moon diameter) below Regulus, which may be easier to find.
Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) has a gaseous atmosphere the size of Jupiter and is made up from poisonous cyanogen gas, which gives it its green colour when sunlight hits it in a vacuum.
It may still be visible all next month as well, but this week it will at its closest and brightest.
Watch the High Skies…