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Comet Lovejoy spotted by amateur Oulton astronomer

PUBLISHED: 08:28 04 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:03 04 February 2015

Comet pictured from an Oulton observatory. Picture: David Jackson

Comet pictured from an Oulton observatory. Picture: David Jackson

Archant

An amateur astronomer in north Norfolk captured this stunning image of Comet Lovejoy hurtling through space on its journey around the sun.

David Jackson of Oulton in his home observatory with a Takahashi Epsilon Astrograph which he used to photograph the Comet Lovejoy. 

Photo by Mark Bullimore David Jackson of Oulton in his home observatory with a Takahashi Epsilon Astrograph which he used to photograph the Comet Lovejoy. Photo by Mark Bullimore

It provides a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the huge chunk of ice and dust which will not return for thousands of years.

The icy mass was photographed by 71-year-old David Jackson, who lives near Aylsham and captured the image from his garden observatory.

Mr Jackson, who spent a long career working for the Greenwich Royal Observatory, said Norfolk’s skies were ideal for star-gazing.

“It is thanks to the dark, relatively unpolluted skies here in Norfolk that we can see such wonders,” said Mr Jackson.

David Jackson of Oulton in his home observatory with a Takahashi Epsilon Astrograph which he used to photograph the Comet Lovejoy. 

Photo by Mark Bullimore David Jackson of Oulton in his home observatory with a Takahashi Epsilon Astrograph which he used to photograph the Comet Lovejoy. Photo by Mark Bullimore

“I took a series of two-minute exposures. If I had taken one long exposure it would have blurred the image.”

Mr Jackson became fascinated by astronomy at the age of 12, when he built his first six-inch reflector telescope in a school woodwork lesson.

A career working on telescopes followed, but he only began to look through the lens himself after retirement 15 years ago when he moved to Oulton with his wife Jennifer, 65.

Mr Jackson built an observatory in his back garden and began to stay up until the early hours searching for rare sights in the sky.

“It was the first thing I built when we moved up here,” said Mr Jackson, who has two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

“If you go outside on a clear night with the moon up there is nothing like it. It is a fabulous sight.”

Comet Lovejoy was originally spotted by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy in August last year.

It is a long-period comet, which last passed through the inner solar system 11,500 years ago and is not expected to return for another 8,000.

Its green colour is due to the diatomic carbon surrounding the comet. Mr Jackson, who is a member of the North Norfolk Astronomy Society, said the comet would still be viewable in the coming weeks.

Have you spotted something unusual in the sky? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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