December 17, 2011
Comet Lovejoy Survives Passing Through Sun's Atmosphere
On the evening of December 15, experts observed a comet Lovejoy fly through the hot atmosphere of the sun and emerge intact, which was previously thought impossible. This event was recorded by at least five spacecraft including NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, twin STEREO probes, Europe's Proba2 Microsatellite, and ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
Comet Lovejoy was first discovered on December 2. It was identified to belong in the Kreutz family of sungrazing comets. However It appeared at least 10 times larger than the usual Kreutz sungrazer.
As it flew through the atmosphere it had a large wiggling tail. This may be a sign that the comet was being buffetted by plasma waves coursing through the corona, or it could be bouncing back and fourth off great magnetic loops known to permeate the sun's atmmosphere, but no one knows for sure. There is still a possibility that the comet will start to fragment, so scientists will continue to observe Lovejoy.
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Posted by charwei at December 17, 2011 04:37 PM