Five years ago today on 17 August 2014 Terry Lovejoy scanned the heavens from his home near Brisbane, Australia and found a new long-period comet.
Originating from the Oort Cloud, Comet C/2014 Q2 was in the southern constellation Puppis when Lovejoy first saw it. It wasn’t very bright at the time (apparent magnitude 15) but by mid-December it became so bright that you could see it naked-eye in a dark sky if you knew where to look. In January 2015 it crossed the celestial equator and became brighter still, soon passing close to the sun. Diminished by the sun’s power it won’t return for another 8,000 years.
C/2014 Q2 was the fifth comet Terry Lovejoy discovered and not even the most spectacular. His best was a Kreutz sungrazer found in December 2011. Click here to see it from the International Space Station.
As of this writing Lovejoy has discovered six comets. Find out how he does it in this article at Space.com.