Earlier this week, when International Space Station commander Daniel Burbank beheld comet Lovejoy streaking through space, he could not believe his eyes.
“[It was] the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in space, and that’s saying an awful lot because every day is filled with amazing things,” said Burbank.
Here’s how he described the sighting:
We were flying over Tasmania, we’d actually just seen the storms in the South Pacific over the Philippines, it was nighttime, thunderstorms lighting up the entire sky. And then just before the sun came up, the Earth’s limb was lit up as a sliver of blue and purple and then there was this long, green arc that extended probably 10 degrees or so from the horizon. . . . It’s probably the most spectacular thing you could imagine...
Video time lapse of comet Lovejoy (from about 100 photos), as viewed from the International Space Station on December 21. Time lapse followed by description and reaction from commander Dan Burbank. Video courtesy NASA
The comet, discovered by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy in early December, is best known for its unlikely survival passing through the sun’s searing hot corona last week.
Want to catch a glimpse of comet Lovejoy yourself? You’ll need to be in the Southern Hemisphere. The excellent Bad Astronomy blog puts it this way:
If you live Down Under, then getting up an hour or so before sunrise over the next few days will afford you a fantastic view you don’t get too many times in your life. You should take it.