By Deborah Netburn
2:39 PM PST, December 6, 2013
As we wait to find out what if anything survived Comet ISON's brush with the sun, check out this gorgeous image of Comet Lovejoy taken with the Hawaii-based telescope Subaru.
The image above was taken on Tuesday, and shows a clear view of the ionized plasma filaments in the comet's tail. This particular Comet Lovejoy (there have been others found and named by the same Australian astronomer), was discovered in September 2013.
Lovejoy is currently making its way away from Earth and toward the sun. But there will be no dramatic do-or-die moment for Lovejoy like there was for ISON. At its closest approach to the sun, Comet Lovejoy will be near the orbit of Mercury, a safe distance from the sun's radiation and gravity.
If you are up for a challenge, you can try to spot Lovejoy in the night sky over the next week. Start by getting yourself a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, and getting as far from city lights as you can. Then set the alarm clock -- you are going to need to get up early. According to the Griffith Park Observatory, the best time to see Lovejoy is around 5 a.m. PST.
Look toward the northeastern sky before dawn. Tony Flanders of Sky and Telescope magazine says the comet should be just below the tail of the Big Dipper. If you know how to read a sky chart, you'll find one here.
Flanders was able to see Comet Lovejoy just four miles from the center of Boston with a pair of binoculars and described it as looking like a "fuzzy disk, much bigger than a star."
The moon is getting brighter, so now is probably the best time to see the comet.
Happy comet hunting, and follow me on Twitter for more like this.
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