Comet Lulin, just discovered in 2007 and making what might be its maiden swing through Earth's neighborhood, should be visible in the sky throughout much of next month, drawing closest to our planet on February 24.
The comet's parabolic orbit (trackable with this NASA Web app) seems to indicate an origin beyond the inner solar system—meaning it may be passing through for the first time.
The comet "should be a fairly easy object [to see with] modest amateur telescopes or even binoculars," Donald Yeomans, a comet and asteroid expert at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told National Geographic. And, according to Sky & Telescope, Lulin "may even become detectable with the unaided eye in a dark, moonless sky." (There's some ambiguity in the projections of Lulin's brightness, since no historical precedent for such an approach exists and no one is sure how it will respond if this is, indeed, its first close encounter with the sun.)
Although Lulin should reach peak brightness in the night sky on February 24, Sky & Telescope readers are already reporting sightings of the comet in the morning sky. (The mag also has handy downloadable guides to where the comet should be in the sky on any given day.) So what are you waiting for? Grab those binocs out and go comet-gazing.
If you manage to catch Lulin on camera, comment on this post with links to your pics—or send them to us via Twitter at http://twitter.com/sciam—and we'll put together a collection of cometary candids. (We assembled a similar photo collection for January's perigee moon.)
PHOTO OF COMET HALE-BOPP IN 1997: CYNICAL PINK ON FLICKR