Comet Lovejoy Grazes the Sun, Survives

It was only two weeks ago that amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy discovered Comet Lovejoy, and today it was looking like the comet was going to be short-lived; it was on a path that put it extremely close to the sun. Clearly, the odds of it surviving the close encounter weren’t high.

Much to the surprise of many who followed Comet Lovejoy’s seemingly suicidal dive into the sun, Lovejoy actually survived the close encounter with the sun, coming within 87,000 miles of the sun’s surface as it did a quick orbit and shot back off into space.

“Breaking News! Lovejoy lives! The comet Lovejoy has survived its journey around the sun to reemerge on the other side,” exclaimed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in a tweet today.

Temperatures would have been between one to two million degrees Fahrenheit when Comet Lovejoy reached the sun’s corona, so many researchers didn’t expect to Lovejoy come out from behind the sun’s other side.

Karl Battams, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, expected that observers would get the opportunity to see the “complete vaporzation” of a comet. He wrote in a post on the Sungrazer website:

“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.”

You can check out a video of Comet Lovejoy’s approach of the sun followed by a video of the comet emerging from the other side directly below.