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A Commanding View of a Comet

A time-lapse movie taken from the International Space Station shows a brightening view of Earth’s horizon at dawn on December 21. It features an orbital view of lightning storms, stars, airglow… and the dramatic appearance of “sungrazer” Comet Lovejoy as it rises above the atmosphere! Incredible!

Discovered on December 2 by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy in Australia, Comet Lovejoy recently survived its close pass around the Sun, traveling through the sun’s corona and reappearing shortly after from the opposite side. It had been anticipated that Lovejoy would disintegrate during approach… it seems this newly-discovered interplanetary traveler is tougher than we thought!

The images for the time-lapse were taken by ISS Expedition 29/30 Commander Dan Burbank, who then describes his privileged view of Lovejoy from low-Earth orbit.

SOHO image of Lovejoy approaching the sun on Dec. 15, 2011. Credit: NASA/SOHO

Although not exactly known, it’s believed Lovejoy’s core must be at least 500 meters (1,640 feet) in diameter in order for it to have survived perihelion, its closest approach to the sun.

Its tail, bright upon arrival, was lost as it rounded the sun but reappeared during its outward travel. What’s seen in the video above is its new tail, which now precedes it as it moves away from the sun.

Read more about Comet Lovejoy here.

Video credit: NASA.

Comments

  1. walkerjian
    November 16, 2012, 9:26 pm

    the comet was fantastic, the best christmas present ever! The BEST thing for me tho was the UFO at the start – obviously above the atmosphere and it seemed to be moving rather strangely for a satellite! Perhaps the astronaut can comment… ;)

  2. OHReport
    USA
    March 11, 2012, 7:09 pm

    Ok, so I did everything you said and checked again with no luck… I can’t seem to figure it out! Thanks for the help

  3. Anil Patel
    Mumbai
    January 12, 2012, 7:18 am

    Is comet lovejoy visible in Indian night sky ?
    I tried to locate in last week of december-2011 but fail to see.
    Any possibility to see this comet in Indian sky ? its position ? Please do let me know.

  4. diana hunter
    grand rapids,mi
    December 29, 2011, 10:21 pm

    Me too.Except my feet where on the earth.I thought it was a light from a plane.Till it turned east and a tail showed for 3 seconds that I knew it was a comet.Is it harder to land when
    magnetic north is wobbling?

  5. Arrowsdad925
    America
    December 28, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I noticed right at :08 that there was an object moving horizontally to the left, then faded out of view. Right along the arch (stratosphere?) It’s only for a few seconds, but definitely caught my eye. Can anyone explain?

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  20. Eddie Porter
    Southern California
    December 23, 2011, 12:09 am

    Allways good to see the Big Picture.It’s A Beautyfull Thing.

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    December 22, 2011, 10:44 pm

    It’s not a comet, it’s the holy spirit of KIM JONG IL !

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