Comet plunge reveals solar secrets

In December 2011, space telescopes witnessed an event that astonished astronomers. A comet plunged deep through the atmosphere of the Sun and survived.

Comets are reckoned to be pretty insubstantial things, despite their sometimes lengthy, spectacular tails. So this ball of rock and ice, called Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3), had been expected to break up and become vaporised in the encounter.

In fact the comet came out relatively unscathed, grew a fresh magnificent tail and became an impressive sight for astronauts on the International Space Station as well as on Earth.

Lovejoy’s close encounter has been extremely useful for solar scientists because it has allowed them to study a region deep within the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, that is otherwise near impossible to observe.

Now views in the extreme-ultraviolet region of the spectrum from three solar spaceprobes have provided new information on the characteristics of the magnetic fields embedded in the region through which Comet Lovejoy passed.

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Posted 10 months ago with 496 notes
Tagged:Astronomysciencecometcomet lovejoyISSSun

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