Comet LoveJoy

Comet Lovejoy seen by SOHO

“On average, new Kreutz-group comets are discovered every few days by SOHO, but from the ground they are much rarer to see or discover,” says Karl Battams, Naval Research Laboratory, who curates the Sun-grazing comets webpage. See Also: The beginning of the end for comet Lovejoy

 One instrument watching for the comet was the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which adjusted its cameras in order to watch the trajectory. Not only does this help with comet research, but it also helps orient instruments on SDO — since the scientists know where the comet is based on other spacecraft, they can finely determine the position of SDO’s mirrors. This first clip from SDO from the evening of Dec 15, 2011 shows Comet Lovejoy moving in toward the sun. 

Comet Lovejoy survived its encounter with the sun. The second clip shows the comet exiting from behind the right side of the sun, after an hour of travel through its closest approach to the sun. By tracking how the comet interacts with the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, and how material from the tail moves along the sun’s magnetic field lines, solar scientists hope to learn more about the corona. This movie was filmed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in 171 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically shown in yellow.

Credit: NASA/SDO

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