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December 22: Comet Lovejoy

     
  December 22: Comet Lovejoy  
  Comet Lovejoy  
 

 

Click on the above image for a link to a movie showing Comet Lovejoy pass the Sun

 

 
 

Comet Lovejoy, is a long-period Sungrazer comet. It was discovered in 2011 by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. The comet's orbital perihelion took it through the Sun's lower atmosphere (corona) on 16 December 2011. Along with numerous other instruments, PROBA2 observed Lovejoy approach the Sun from the East (left side of the above image), pass behind the Sun, and then emerge on the West side of the Sun. However, the comet was clearly impacted by the event.

By clicking on the image above you will be taken to a video of the event made by PROBA2. If you look closely, you will see the tail of the comet 'wiggle' as it passes through the solar atmosphere. There has been much interest in this effect. It is not precisely known what is happening, but its believed  material in the tail is interacting magnetically with the Suns magnetic field. The Suns atmosphere is interspersed with magnetic structures known as coronal loops. These loops are largely indivisible unless plasma or other material gets trapped upon them.

For more information on comet Lovejoy numerous articles were published, but here, here and here is a good starting point.