Some joyful astro images with comet Lovejoy

I couldn’t help making a pun with the word Lovejoy (nice name by the way , could have added that Lovejoy has lovely colors too)… Anyway , this is another astronomy related event happening in 2015 : comet Lovejoy , officially named C/2014 Q2 (other Lovejoy comets were discovered earlier) , makes its nearest approach to planet Earth in January 2015 and is visible crossing the night sky.

First , here are four images of the orbit diagram of the comet in the solar system. The images are taken from the JPL Small-Body Database Browser. It is the same image zoomed in four times.

.lovejoy comet zoomed in


Second , we have the path of comet Lovejoy and its position in relation to the constellations , viewed from three cities. Two cities are located in the Northern Hemisphere (Paris and Alexandria) , and one city in the Southern Hemisphere (Rio de Janeiro).The dates ( all in January 2015) and the info related to the views are given at the bottom of each image.Images were made with RedShift and some Photoshop.

Lovejoy comet viewed from 3 cities

And the third set of three images gives the orbit and position of the comet in the solar system during three different dates (July 2014 , January 2015 and February 2016).

comet Lovejoy 3 dates

Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 has a solid icy nucleus with a width of 2 or 3 miles.The coma or cloud surrounding the frozen solid nucleus at the head of the comet is made of gas and dust . Comets have two tails , a dust tail and an ion or plasma tail , always pointing away from the Sun.The tail reaches its greatest extent at about the closest approach to the Sun . The design and the physics of the plasma tail are related to the interaction between the cometary plasma and the solar wind. The Lovejoy comet is not making too much dust and has a more developed ion gas tail.The blue color of the ion tail is explained by the presence of Carbon monoxide ions. Diatomic Carbon molecules fluorescing by solar ultraviolet radiation and the chemical compound cyanogen are mainly responsible  for the observed or apparent green color of the comet.
Comet Lovejoy has a highly elliptical orbit like all comets ; it has a  long orbital period (comets with long periods come from the Oort cloud) and has passed through the solar system about  11500 years ago. The comet’s orbit is a little changed due to gravitational perturbations by the planets , and it will not return into the solar system for about 8000 years.

Rosetta’s path and the encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Here is a video animation I have  made of the Rosetta spacecraft on it way to  comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko . It shows the path of Rosetta (in yellow) since its launch in 2004 until it approaches and meets the comet (orbit in blue). The animation was made using the Starry Night astronomy program.

The same  video with shorter length , less effects and a slightly better resolution can be viewed at this link.

The coordinates of comet 67P  were not prebuilt in my version of Starry Night , so I had to program the orbital elements of Churyumov–Gerasimenko myself. After researching I used the following  elements :

Eccentricity (e): 0.640980 ;  pericenter or perihelion distance (q): 1.243230 AU ;

Node : 50.1423 °  ;  argument of pericenter ( w ) : 12.7854°  ;

Inclination (i): 7.0402°  ; pericenter time (Tp) : 2457247.5683  ;

Epoch : 2456967.5  ;  Magnitude : 11 ;

 North pole right ascension: 69.00°  ;  North pole declination: 64° ;

Rotation rate : 2 rotations/day  .

Here is also a slideshow of the position and orbit of Rosetta at different dates . In the last three images the position of the Dawn spacecraft is shown as well. Dawn entered the orbit of the Vesta asteroid (or protoplanet)  in July 20 , 2011 , and completed  its fourteen month survey mission of Vesta in late 2012. Dawn is getting nearer to the dwarf planet (or large asteroid) Ceres and will arrive there in early 2015. The images were created and prepared with the Redshift astronomy software.

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Last but not least , here is a an image I’ve prepared ( with Starry Night and Photoshop ) showing the path and orbit of the Rosetta spacecraft from its launch in 2004 to the end of 2014 , including the orbit of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko ,  with annotations recounting briefly the important steps of the Rosetta mission.

 Rosetta path and mission.