Somewhat appropriate for posting on Friday the 13th since they were once seen as portents of doom, a surprise pre-Christmas visitor was Comet Lovejoy. Surprising for two reasons: it wasn't even discovered until late November, and then it wasn't expected to survive it's closest approach to the sun.
But survive it did and as it sped away from the sun it turned into a spectacular Christmas gift for stargazers in the southern hemisphere. It was breathtaking, and well worth getting up at 4am to see.
I was worried I would have trouble spotting it in the sky. Instead I walked around a street corner on the way to my viewing spot and just about stopped in my tracks. It was unmissable, the tail measuring easily three hand-spans in the pre-dawn sky, like a searchlight beaming from below the horizon as it rose.
Some with more capable cameras than me got stunning images of it, but here is mine from a field behind my backyard on Christmas eve:
While not the most spectacular image, it does approximate well how the comet looked to the naked eye from my place. I've seen a handful of comets in my life; Halley's, Hale-Bopp, Mcnaught, and this one, which was easily the most awe-inspiring. The tail is millions of kilometers long. Charlotte got to see it too, from her bedroom window. I hope she remembers it.
As for the spectacular images, The Bad Astronomer did a good job of collating them. Check out this timelapse: The Spectacle of Comet Lovejoy
Or the Insanely Cool observatory shot
Or the one I find most wow (for a few reasons), timelapse video of cometrise from the International Space Station
I love this stuff.