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Posts Tagged ‘Comet Lovejoy’

Christmas Comet Lovejoy Captured at Paranal

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Image Credit: G. Blanchard(eso.org/~gblancha)/ESO

Image Credit: G. Blanchard(eso.org/~gblancha)/ESO

The recently discovered Comet Lovejoy has been captured in stunning photos and time-lapse video taken from ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The comet graced the southern sky after it had unexpectedly survived a close encounter with the Sun.

A new time-lapse video sequence was taken by Gabriel Brammer from ESO less than two days ago on 22 December 2011. Gabriel was finishing his shift as support astronomer at the Paranal Observatory when Comet Lovejoy rose over the horizon just before dawn.

In the words of Gabriel Brammer himself: “On the last morning of my shift I tried to try catch it on camera before sunrise. The tail of the comet was easily visible with the naked eye, and the combination of the crescent Moon, comet, Milky Way and the laser guide star was nearly as impressive to the naked eye as it appears in the long-exposure photos.”

The sequence also features the pencil-thin beam of the VLT’s Laser Guide Star set against the beautiful backdrop of the Milky Way, as astronomers conduct their last observations for the night.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1153/

Space Station Commander Captures Unprecedented View Of Comet

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank captured spectacular imagery of Comet Lovejoy, viewed from about 240 miles above the Earth’s horizon on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Today Burbank described seeing the comet as “the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space,” in an interview with WDIV-TV in Detroit. Burbank took hundreds of still images of the comet.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_M11-255_ISS_Lovejoy.html

Comet Lovejoy Visible at Sunrise

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Noted astronomer John Bortle urges observers (especially in the southern hemisphere) to “begin searching for Comet Lovejoy’s bright tail projecting up out of the morning twilight beginning at dawn. The tails of some of the major sungrazing comets have been extraordinarily bright. Comet Lovejoy’s apparition has been so bizarre up to this point that it is difficult to anticipate just what might happen next … [including] the exact sort of tail it might unfurl in the morning sky.”

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=20&month=12&year=2011

Comet Lovejoy Survives Fiery Plunge Through Sun

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Image Credit: SOHO

Image Credit: SOHO

A newfound comet defied long odds today (Dec. 15), surviving a suicidal dive through the sun’s hellishly hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists.

Comet Lovejoy plunged through the sun’s corona at about 7 p.m. EST today (midnight GMT on Dec. 16), coming within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of our star’s surface. Temperatures in the corona can reach 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 million degrees Celsius), so most researchers expected the icy wanderer to be completely destroyed.

But Lovejoy proved to be made of tough stuff. A video taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft showed the icy object emerging from behind the sun and zipping back off into space.

“Breaking News! Lovejoy lives! The comet Lovejoy has survived its journey around the sun to reemerge on the other side,” SDO researchers tweeted today.

Full Story: http://www.space.com/13959-doomed-comet-lovejoy-sun-encounter-wrap.html

Spectacular Sundiving Comet

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Comet Lovejoy is plunging toward the sun, and its ~200-meter wide core is vaporizing furiously as it approaches the hot star. So far the comet’s brightness seems to be exceeding expectations. Indeed, there is a slim chance that the sundiver will brighten enough to be seen with the naked eye in broad daylight on Dec. 15th. Check http://spaceweather.com for further discussion and the latest movies from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?month=12&day=15&year=2011&view=view

(NB: Full Story link will only be active from December 15th onwards – in the meantime, go to Spaceweather’s front page at http://spaceweather.com/)

Using Many Instruments to Track a Comet

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

In 16 years of data observations, the Solar Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO) — a joint European Space Agency and NASA mission –- made an unexpected claim for fame: the sighting of new comets at an alarming rate. SOHO has spotted over 2100 comets, most of which are from what’s known as the Kreutz family, which graze the solar atmosphere where they usually evaporate completely.

But on December 2, 2011, the discovery of a new Kreutz-family comet was announced. This comet was found the old-fashioned way: from the ground. Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy spotted the comet, making this the first time a Kreutz comet has been found through a ground-based telescope since the 1970’s. The comet has been designated C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy).

Discovering a comet before it moves into view of space-based telescopes, gives scientists the opportunity to prepare the telescopes for the best possible observations. Indeed, since comet Lovejoy was visible from the ground, scientists have high hopes that this might be an exceptionally bright comet, making it all the easier to view and study. (Some Kreutz comets –- such as Ikeya-Seki in 1965 — are so bright they can be seen with the naked eye in the daytime, though this is extremely rare.)

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/track-comet.html

Significant Comet Plunges Toward the Sun

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

A comet nearly as wide as two football fields (200m) is plunging toward the sun where it will most likely be destroyed in a spectacular light show on Dec. 15/16. Although Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) could become as bright as Jupiter or Venus when it “flames out,” the glare of the sun will hide the event from human eyes. Solar observatories in space, however, will have a grand view. Yesterday the brightening comet entered the field of view of NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft.

Full Story: http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=13&month=12&year=2011