Comet Lovejoy plunges toward the Sun — and survives!

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, December 16, 2011

Yesterday, recently found Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) survived its plunge into the Sun’s corona after passing a mere 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) from our star’s photosphere — an incredibly close encounter. This Kreutz sungrazer was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy on November 27, 2011, and was immediately given up for dead, as nearly all such sungrazers are pulled into our star. Oddly, the comet had a little detached mini comet riding alongside it, as well.

But last night, the comet swooped in to its closest approach with the Sun and swung out on the other side, having lost mass but still intact. The photo here from the ESA/NASA Solar & Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft shows the comet’s tail to the lower left of the black occulting circle that represents the Sun’s disk. This image is fresh — from this morning, and shows the comet still lives!

Tags: Comets
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