New Comet (Lulin) To Observe This Month

A new comet enters our skies in February.

Comet Lulin (2007 N3) is speeding towards the Earth, at present.  It will get closest to us on February 24th and be  less than half the Earth-Sun distance away.  Then it heads away again, out into our Solar System and by early April, Lulin will have already crossed the orbit of Mars.

Comet Lulin, before dawn 6th February, in Libra

Comet Lulin, before dawn 6th February, in Libra

The comet is called Lulin, after the observatory in Taiwan where the image of its approach was captured.  It was actually discovered in 2007, by a Chinese meteorology student Quanzhi Ye.

 

The good news for amateur astronomers is, Comet Lulin should be easily observable with binoculars or a small telescope.  

Here are some sky maps I’ve made using Stellarium software, for three particular dates in February (click each image, for a larger version).

They show where to look for Lulin, in the skies before dawn.  

Between these specific dates, the comet will move between the positions marked, following a smooth path.

The first map shows Lulin before dawn on 6 Feb, next to the double star Zubenelgenubi in the constellation of Libra.  This will be low in the South East.

 

 

Comet Lulin, before dawn 16th February, near Spica in Virgo

Comet Lulin, before dawn 16th February, near Spica in Virgo

By 16 February, the comet will be observable in the constellation of Virgo, near the bright star Spica.

The comet should appear noticably green.  

The colour comes from gases gushing out from the nucleus of the comet, as it is heated by the Sun’s rays.

Because of the chemical composition of the gases, they will appear green, under the intense radiation from the Sun.  

However, this is the first time Comet Lulin has come into the Solar System, so it’s not certain actually how it will behave.  To find out how big and bright it gets in our skies, we shall have to wait and see!

 

Here is the third map.

Lulin near to Saturn, on 24 February

Lulin near to Saturn, on 24 February

By 24 February, Lulin should appear close to the planet Saturn.

This might make a particularly good astro imaging opportunity, although the rings of Saturn appear rather “edge-on” to us at present, so the great planet will not be arrayed in its full glory.

Nevertheless, I shall be trying for a nice image with the Canon/Skywatcher combination.

I hope these maps help you find Lulin in the sky,  during February.

If you do manage to get a good view of Lulin on any day, please let me know by leaving a comment on this post.

36 Responses to New Comet (Lulin) To Observe This Month

  1. Kevin Brown says:

    Hi David,

    Sounds interesting, but it wasn’t Lulin. It would have been low in the East then.

    All the best
    Kevin

  2. David Thompson says:

    Kevin,
    Strange occurence on Friday 27th Feb from my home in North Kent. It was a clear night at approx 6.30pm. Directly to the West there was a crescent moon with Venus directly above it. I was looking at them through binoculars when I saw what I thought was a comet type body with a greenish vapour trail appear between them. It was travelling from North to South and disappeared some 20mins minutes later? Was this Lulin or something else? I am intrigued any ideas? Regards David

  3. b.krieger says:

    What time will Lulin be visible in the sky over Connecticut near NYC tonight and where will it be in the sky?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi,

      Should be high in the sky, between Saturn and Regulus, as in the map just above.

      Best time probably 10pm to 2am.

      Best of luck,

      Kevin (trying to see Lulin myself at the moment, here in UK – clouds seem to have parted!)

  4. Lee says:

    Saw Lulin at 7.30PM last night in Cheshire UK I took a bearing at 260 West Absolutely crystal clear sky whihc was a blessing to see such an awsome sight with the naked eye, we watched it as it faded away from our view at approx 10pm.

  5. Susan says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Downloaded Stellarium and had a play but can you tell me were the Lulin comet will be night or early morning 27th/28th Feb. We are in Malaga province, Spain, and I get the idea from the program that it should be past Saturn now. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Susan

      Lulin is moving past Saturn and towards Regulus now (in our sky, not for real of course!).

      Here’s a predicted map of Lulin’s position tonight, for your latitude. (click for larger image)
      Comet Lulin map for 26 Feb from lat 41N

      cheers
      Kevin

  6. karen says:

    Thanks for the information, it is very usefull.

  7. courtney says:

    hey i live in georgia (u.s.) so where would i look to find the comet in the sky? also are 8×21 binoculars going to work?

    thanks,
    courtney

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Courtney,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Much the same as Indiana (in astronomical terms!) above at comment #13. I’ve posted a Lulin map for tonight/tomorrow.

      Your binoculars should be OK. The comet is getting close to a naked eye object, I’ve been told.

      So best of luck. (It’s very cloudy again, here in UK)

      Kevin

  8. Jerry says:

    I live in Westfield IN, and I would like to know when and where will be the best time for me to view Lulin tonight?

    Thanks,

    Jerry

  9. ankita says:

    hiiii
    i live in india……mumbai………will i be able to see the comet????which is the right time to look in the sky???

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi ankita,

      Yes, reaches high in the sky for you too. Much as the comment above for Puerto Rico.

      Should be highest around 8.00UT so 1am local time? But plenty of chance before and after.

      cheers
      Kevin

  10. karen says:

    HI I’m in Puerto Rico today feb 24,12:34am. I would like to know were I can see Lulin. I already look with binoculars a nd only saw a very difuse star near saturn,based on a planisphere. Im very rooky and I’m not sure if it is. Were can I see it tomorrow?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Karen,

      Sounds like you have found Lulin, already! It is close to Saturn today and tomorrow.

      From your latitude, you should have plenty of time to observe. It will rise in the East, reach high in the sky (almost directly overhead) by around 1-2am your time and then set later in the West.

      Very similar to the map above, but higher in the sky for you.

      All the best
      Kevin

  11. Melissa says:

    Kevin,

    We are in Indiana, and I was just out looking for Lulin (8:45 pm). I was thinking it would be in the east lower on the horizon, but there is too much light pollution to make out anything. There is a faint glow visible with binoculars between two brighter constellations at about “2:00″ in the sky up a bit higher on the horizon. Any chance this is it?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Melissa,

      At your latitude and longitude, Lulin will rise to “halfway” up the sky in South, by around 5.00 UT (GMT), so 12-1 am with you?

      This will make it easier to see.

      Here is a map .. (click for larger version)
      Lulin near Saturn on 25 Feb from Lat 41 deg N

      Best of luck!
      Kevin

  12. marlar says:

    hi
    thank for lulin info.could i have a chance to see
    lulin on 24 feb from myanmar?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi marlar

      I’ve looked-up Myanmar and you are probably around latitude 15 degrees North.

      You should have ample chance to see the comet, if your skies are clear. It crosses the sky, passing almost directly overhead.

      By 24 Feb, Lulin will be very close to Saturn. The relative orientation of Spica, Saturn and Regulus, will be the same for you as in the maps here, just higher in the sky.

      Best,
      Kevin

  13. Kyle P says:

    Hello Kevin,

    I live In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I was wondering if I will be able to view Lulin and at what time, where and would any kind of binoculars do?

    Thanks,
    Kyle

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Kyle,

      Just looked up Edmonton and your latitude is around 54 degrees, I think. So your view will be similar to the 24 Feb map above, although Lulin will be a little lower in the sky (because my map is for 51 deg N).

      The best time, with Lulin high-ish in the South near Saturn, looks to be around 2 hours ago. So 9am UT (GMT), which is I guess 1 am with you?

      And 10 times magnification binoculars should work.

      Good luck!
      Kevin

      PS Just added Lulin’s projected position to my Stellarium software and here’s a map for 9.00 UT today for latitude 54 deg North.

      Lulin Map Lat. 54N 9.00 UT Feb 22nd

  14. allison says:

    Hello again Kevin,

    Its now 9:00 p.m. in Barbados and I have a beautiful clear sky. I think that I am seeing Comet Lulin (like a little ball of cloud amongst the stars). I saw Comet Holmes high in the north east last year and it resembled a cotton ball or a tiny cloud. Is it possible that this is Lulin that I am seeing high in the east?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hello Allison,

      Lulin should not be high in the East, at 9.00pm with you. And according to reports, you will need 10x magnification binoculars to see it as an elongated blur.

      So you may be seeing something else. From the map above, it looks like 12-1am with you is going to be best. Try to find the bright star Spica in Virgo and move up from it.

      All the best
      Kevin

  15. mike m says:

    feb 21 5:30am i was viewing low in the sky to the west and wasn’t sure if it was lulin.it was the only thing i could see with a greenish tint to it.

  16. allison says:

    Thanks a million Kevin!
    There was a lot of cloud last night and some rain which did not permit me to get a glimpse of Lulin. Hopefully tonight weather permitting the skies will be much better for viewing. I will keep you posted on my search. Thanks again for your kindness.

  17. allison says:

    Many thanks Kevin.
    I tried looking this morning(19th) at 5:00ET with the naked eye. I am not sure what I was looking at because I am a bit of a novice. I saw 2 very bright stars in the east and under the lower star above the horizon, I saw a very fuzzy star. Was That fuzzy star Comet Lulin? The time in Barbados is now 8:00 p.m. Eastern. which makes is 7:00 p.m in the United States.

    Anxiously awaiting your response.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Allison,

      You’ll see it soon, I’m sure!

      You will need some binoculars (modest, say 7×50 or 10×50, is fine)

      Based on my map above, I would say look between East and South (nearer East), at around 1-2am (your time) and follow up from the bright star Spica to the planet Saturn (it’s rings are edge-on to us at the moment, so it may not be obviously Saturn).

      The comet should be between the two, greenish and fuzzy, according to reports.

      Best of luck,

      Kevin

  18. allison says:

    i am living in the Caribbean (Barbados). Will I be able to see Comet Lulin?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks for asking. You should get a good view (weather permitting). And much higher in the sky and therefore earlier in the night.

      Here’s a likely view from the Caribbean on 20 Feb at around 6.00 UT in the morning, so around 1am with you?

      Map of likely Lulin position from the Caribbean over next few days at 6.00 UT (1 am with you?)

      Best of luck

      Kevin

      PS Send us an image, if you can.

  19. Kevin Brown says:

    Thanks for the comments above.

    I’ve just had this question sent by email (and it might be interesting to others).

    “I am holidaying in gran canaria from 23 feb for a week, will I be able to see lulin from there?”

    Here’s my reply..

    ” Hi

    You should be able to, clear skies permitting.

    And because of your more southerly latitude, Virgo and Lulin will be much higher in the sky.

    Best of luck!”

    Kevin

  20. Richard Guyette says:

    February 18, 2009 at 0155hrs

    Just viewed this Comet with 7×50 Binoculars, it appeared to be about 5th magnitude approximately half the distance between alpha and gamma Virgo and appeared to have a greenish grey tinge to it.

    (Winter Haven, Florida)

  21. Martyn Beechall says:

    Thanks for the Info, looking forward to viewing this celestial gem now i know where to look, the difficult part now is getting out of bed.

    cheers
    Martyn

  22. Kevin Brown says:

    Hi Tony,

    Thank you so much! I am very pleased you’ve found my guide to Lulin useful.

    Thanks again
    Kevin

  23. Tony says:

    I’m not very knowledgeable about astronomy but I like to watch The Sky at Night. I can identify the plough and Orion (on a good day), I stumbled onto your website while trying to find where to look to find Comet Lulin which I heard about on the Programme but their directions were directed to someone more knowledgeable than I! With your help, I can now go out in the early morning and have a good idea where to look. Thanks very much indeed. Keep up the good work for we who are interested but need easy info! Cheers, Tony.

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