STEREO - Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory
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Comet Lovejoy Cruises around the Sun

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Comet Lovejoy startled scientists by surviving it sun-grazing cruise around the Sun and back into space (Dec. 15-16, 2011). This was the brightest sun-grazing comet that STEREO or SOHO has ever observed. Its survivability might be partly explained by the size of its core, an estimated 2 football fields wide, about 10 times larger than other Kreutz comets, the family of comets to which it belonged. It flew about _ solar radii or roughly 100,000 km above the surface of the Sun where temperatures are something around 1 million degrees. The first video clip shows its trip as observed by the STEREO Ahead coronagraph covers about 40 hours. The side-by-side still image shows the comet and its extensive as it approaches the Sun, and then again as it is heading out into space with a much smaller tail. Note that the tail of the comet pointed away from the Sun, no matter which way it was headed due to the pressure from the solar wind.

The next video chows the comet as viewed simultaneously by the wider field of view coronagraph (red), sandwiched with the smaller COR1 corongraph (green), and the Sun in extreme UV light all from the Ahead spacecraft. Finally, we show the comet itself with a close-up view as it whips around the Sun in extreme UV light.


Last Revised: May 11, 2016 15:00:41 UTC
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