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Christmas comet lights up sky

SHARING THE LOVE: Comet Lovejoy at 4.15am on Christmas Eve, as seen from Cannonvale. 
Photo Shane Ocean
SHARING THE LOVE: Comet Lovejoy at 4.15am on Christmas Eve, as seen from Cannonvale. Photo Shane Ocean

A RECENTLY discovered comet named "Lovejoy" lit up the Whitsunday skies this Christmas, giving local stargazers and photographers a new phenomenon to focus on.

The comet, also known as the "great Christmas comet of 2011" was visible to the naked eye and can still be seen with binoculars or a telescope.

It is expected to fade from view from early February.

Whitsunday residents looking east from a semi-dark location on a number of days over the Christmas period might have seen the comet from about 3am onwards with the naked eye.

The comet was named after Brisbane-based amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy, who discovered it on November 27. Astronomers infinitivally assumed Lovejoy would be short-lived. It was predicted to burn up on December 16, but unexpectedly survived its journey around the sun. When the comet fades from view, it will not return to orbit the earth until 2679, so for those who have witnessed the natural occurrence, this is really a once-in-a-lifetime event.


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