Comet Lovejoy's death-defying plunge into the sun [Video]
Comet Lovejoy hurtled through the sun's corona Thursday, and astounded skywatchers by coming out the other side. Here's how Comet Lovejoy survived.
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NASA also created a website providing updates about the comet's pass through the corona, as well as images of the event beamed down by SDO. It can be found here: http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/data/lovejoy.phpSkip to next paragraph
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For his part, Terry Lovejoy said he was happy to have made a contribution, and he marveled a bit at all the attention the comet has been getting.
"It's been tremendous," Lovejoy told SPACE.com. "Apparently it's all over Facebook, and I don't use Facebook. But there's a lot of interest. I think a lot of people like the name — the Lovejoy name seems to strike a chord with people."
A dramatic escape
Lovejoy is quite large for a sungrazing comet, and experts expected it to die an impressive death. The websiteSpaceweather.com, for example, predicted Lovejoy would blaze as brightly as Jupiter or Venus in the sky as it neared the sun.
Battams also expected a good show, saying the comet might even be visible from the ground around sunset today in the Northern Hemisphere.
"I do think that it will put on a spectacular show for us and will be the brightest Kreutz-group comet that SOHO has ever observed," Battams wrote last week.
Though the early returns are still coming in, those forecasts appear to be on the money. Observations from various spacecraft do indeed show Lovejoy flaring up significantly as it neared our star.
Researchers will keep analyzing the images to better understand the comet's daring solar approach. And now skywatchers apparently have another shot to catch a glimpse of the resilient Lovejoy on Friday morning (Dec. 16).
For observers in North America, the comet will rise approximately 5 to 10 minutes before dawn and will be situated to the upper right of the sun. If Lovejoy is still shining at least as brightly as Venus, it may be visible, experts say.
You could also try to spot Lovejoy after the sun comes up, if you're exceedingly careful. Block the rising sun behind a distant building and focus on the part of the sky 3 to 4 degrees above and to the right of the sun (your clenched fist held at arm's length is equal to roughly 10 degrees). CAUTION: Never point binoculars or a telescope at or near the sun, and never look directly at our star with the naked eye. Serious eye damage can result.
And don't get your hopes up, either. The comet may well be too faint to see, experts say.
Note: If you take any good pictures of Comet Lovejoy and would like them to be considered for a future story or image gallery, contact SPACE.com managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPACE.com assistant managing editor Clara Moskowitz (@ClaraMoskowitz) contributed to this story. You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter: @michaeldwall. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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