By now you've probably heard about Comet 2011/W3 (more commonly known as Lovejoy) — the audaciously bold comet that, to the surprise of many, recently survived an exceptionally close encounter with our Sun.
Since its brush with fiery fate, Lovejoy has been garnering some pretty serious media coverage, not to mention the interest of stargazers the world over (well, the bottom half of the world, anyway). And while some of the most stunning imagery of the comet has actually been captured from onboard the ISS, the time-lapse video up top — shot by astrophotographer Stéphane Guisard — is definitely my favorite footage of the comet to date.
Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait gives a great rundown on what you're seeing — and how you can go about spotting the comet for yourself, provided you live south of the Equator:
The tail of the comet - made of dust particles and gas streaming from the solid, frozen (and quite tiny) nucleus of the comet as it's heated by the Sun — is millions of kilometers long; the comet was over 100 million kilometers from Earth when these pictures were taken!
If you live in the southern hemisphere, the comet is visible just before sunrise; face east to see it. Binoculars should help. Finder charts are all over the web; Heaven's Above is one I use quite often. You'll want the darkest skies possible, and a clear horizon.
[Spotted on Bad Astronomy]
Video by Stéphane Guisard