I apologize. I discovered the joy of puns around the age of 13 and have been making family and friends groan ever since. The title refers to Comet C/2012 F6 Lemmon, which has turned out to be anything but.
Lemmon was discovered in March 2012 by A.R. Gibbs during the Mount Lemmon Survey based in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. At the time it was spectacularly faint. Not anymore. The comet became much brighter than expected when it first appeared in the morning sky late last fall. I recall it as a big, puffy glow shining at 10th magnitude in my scope one chilly December dawn.
Comet Lemmon’s been on a roll ever since; this week it’s 7th magnitude glowing ball with a bright center easily visible in binoculars from a dark sky. One caveat. The comet’s moving south through the famed Southern Cross in the pre-dawn sky. While you might just catch sight of it from Key West, where it clears the horizon before the start of twilight, southern observers have the edge on this fuzzy blob. From Down Under, Lemmon’s very well placed for viewing between 2 and 4 a.m.
Comet Lemmon reaches perihelion – closest approach to the sun – in late March, when it could gleam at 4th magnitude, bright enough to see with the naked eye. Unfortunately, it will be too near the sun to see at that time. We’ll hope that when it slips into a dark morning sky in May, it will still be bright enough to see in a small telescope for observers in both hemispheres.