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Posted at 02:25 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Comet Lovejoy survives sweltering encounter with sun


Comet Lovejoy emerges from sun to the surprise of some astronomers. Screenshot from video. Contrast enhanced. (NASA)
The newly discovered comet Lovejoy defied the odds Thursday, enduring an apparent suicidal journey very near the sun’s simmering surface.

The sungrazer Lovejoy passed from one side of the sun to the other, through the hellishly hot corona, coming as close as 87,000 miles to the surface. Space.com reports temperatured in the corona can be up to 2 million degrees Fahrenheit.

While the comet survived, SpaceWeather.com reports Lovejoy “seems to have lost its tail in transit.”

Lovejoy, a 660-foot mass of icy rock, was first spotted on December 2 by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Australia. NASA says the comet was able to remain intact due to its large size.

In “Dewey defeats Truman”style, NASA released a video entitled “The End of Comet Lovejoy” in the hours before its hellish dive.

“Welcome to the beginning of the end of comet Lovejoy’s billions of years long journey through space,” NASA grimly narrated.

NASA video: The End of Comet Lovejoy

Once it became apparent Lovejoy had survived, NASA dubbed Lovejoy a Phoenix “because it re-emerged similar to the phoenix of mythology.”

But Lovejoy’s re-emergence did not surprise one government agency. NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) posted on its Facebook page its researchers “predicted that this comet would survive its close encounter with the Sun.”

By  |  02:25 PM ET, 12/16/2011

Categories:  Astronomy, Space, Latest

 
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