Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3)

Celestial visitors from the edge of the Solar System.
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TrevorM
Posts: 69
Joined: November 14th, 2009, 12:33 pm

Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3)

Post by TrevorM » December 15th, 2011, 2:49 pm

As of two hours ago (16:30 UT on Dec. 15th), comet Lovejoy was registering in at magnitude -3 or brighter and is plunging into the sun. It has been reported on spaceweather.com that it may become visible in broad daylight by the end of the day today. For the fun of it, I just took a peek with my binos through my solar filter, but I didn't see anything. I'm not sure if my filter would block out a -3 or -4, but I figured I would try.

Christopher K.
Posts: 4772
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3)

Post by Christopher K. » December 15th, 2011, 3:14 pm

The comet was discovered earlier this month by Terry Lovejoy of Australia. According to the Naval Research Lab, Lovejoy may be visible around sunset tonight, to the left of the Sun. WARNING: Anyone who attempts to view Lovejoy this evening should take all necessary precautions to avoid staring directly at the Sun. If you don't know with certainty exactly how to do that, don't try!

More information:
http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php ... &year=2011

Raw data from latest observations:
http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K11/K11X16.html

Excellent write-ups since the 12th from the U.S. Naval Observatory:
http://sungrazer.nrl.navy.mil/index.php ... hday_comet

Christopher K.
Posts: 4772
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3)

Post by Christopher K. » December 16th, 2011, 8:01 pm

Lovejoy has--unbelievably--survived closest approach to the Sun. SOHO has found it emerging from the other side. The SDO, both STEREOs and the Proba2 microsatellite tracked Lovejoy as well. The SDO records the comet's tail wriggling, probably due to either loops in the magnetic field or waves of plasma.

Scientists are rethinking the size of the nucleus, needless to say. Although Lovejoy may crumble away not too long from now due to the beating it got from the Sun, it's safe to say this comet is impressing many right now.

More information:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunea ... vejoy.html
http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php ... &year=2011

Christopher K.
Posts: 4772
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3)

Post by Christopher K. » January 4th, 2012, 5:37 pm

There are some good Lovejoy images at which to gander.

On 21 December, current ISS Commander Dan Burbank caught the plucky survivor while orbiting with his crew about 385 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Burbank told a Detroit television station it was "the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space".

The image:
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegal ... _2137.html

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