This article was written by Phil Plait for SYFY WIRE.
In late 2014 and early 2015 a spectacular comet graced our skies. Called C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), it was a visitor from deep space; its orbit takes it out to something around 180 billion kilometers from the Sun (40 times the distance of Neptune from the Sun!), taking it well over 10,000 years to complete a single orbit.
When it passed Earth back then, it grew bright enough to spot with the naked eye; I saw it myself with binoculars just before the end of 2014 when it was in Orion, and its tail was pretty easy to see.
The orbit of Comet Lovejoy is tipped nearly perpendicular to the plane of Earth’s orbit, so on its way out it screamed north in our sky. By the end of May 2015 it was so far north in the sky that it passed a mere one degree from Polaris, the North Star. By then it had faded a lot — it was over 300 million kilometers from Earth — but it was still bright enough to make for a gorgeous astrophotography target. And good news: The fantastic astrophotographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo took the challenge.
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy near the north celestial pole on May 29, 2015, with Polaris glowing nearby. Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo
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