Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Comet Lovejoy just misses the Sun

Comet Lovejoy just misses the Sun

Newly discovered comet, Lovejoy, defied all odds when it survived a hellish journey through Sun’s corona, where temperatures soar to staggering 1.1millionC.

Astronomers had completely expected the Comet to meet its fiery death but they were left astonished when the 660-foot-wide icy rock

disappeared around the back side of the sun, coming within 87,000 miles of its surface, and emerged triumphantly out the other side.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the great escape on camera and it tweeted after the dramatic event: “Breaking News! Lovejoy lives! The comet Lovejoy has survived its journey around the sun to re-emerge on the other side.”

Lovejoy was recently discovered on November 27 this year and was named after the amateur Australian astronomer who spotted it, Terry Lovejoy.

It is categorized as a ‘Kreutz sungrazer’, which is a class of comet whose orbit comes very close to the Sun.

Shortly after Lovejoy was spotted, three separate space agencies eagerly began tracking its trajectory – NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

“We have here an exceptionally rare opportunity to observe the complete vaporization of a relatively large comet, and we have approximately 18 instruments on five different satellites that are trying to do just that,” the Daily Mail quoted Naval Research Laboratory scientist Karl Battams as writing on the Sungrazing Comets website.

Robert Massey, from the Royal Astronomical Society, was amazed by Lovejoy’s close encounter.

“It was an extraordinary event. Lovejoy was incredibly close to the Sun, closer to the Sun than the Earth is to the Moon,” Massey said.

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