Comet Lovejoy waggles its tail on the way around the sun
Steele Hill of the Solar Dynamics Observatory media team just released a video showing Comet Lovejoy beginning its closest approach (perihelion) with the sun last night. Here is Steele’s video and description:
Comet Lovejoy skimmed across the Sun’s edge about 140,000 km above the surface late Dec. 15, 2011, furiously vaporizing as it approaches the stellar surface. The video clip from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory covers about 30 minutes. It is the brightest sungrazing comet that SOHO and SDO have ever seen, with a nucleus about twice as wide as a football field. The comet’s tail waggled at interacted with the Sun’s atmosphere. It unexpectedly survived the pass and cruised out from behind the Sun roughly hours later. Comets are ancient balls of dust and ice.