Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comet Lovejoy: Surviving the sun

Being wrong can be more interesting than being right. In November Terry Lovejoy, an Australian amateur astronomer, spotted a comet on a collision course with the sun. Comets fall into the sun all the time, but the advance warning let professionals get their instruments ready to record the immolation.

Yet the comet—named Lovejoy after its discoverer—confounded boffins. Despite coming within 140,000km (87,000 miles) of the solar surface, well inside the corona, a cloud of million-degree plasma that envelops the sun, it survived. In the picture, taken by Dan Burbank, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, a singed Lovejoy heads defiantly back into space. Source