The Little Comet that Could

Ah, the Internet, with its almost magical ability to give you what you’re looking for β€” even if you didn’t know you were looking for it. Through a series of links that started with a Web comic, I learned of a little comet that just played chicken with the sun and lived to tell about it.

The best summary is on this page, which at the top says “it’ll be interesting watching this comet flame out as it passes through the million-degree corona of the sun.” As it gets close the discussion talks about new and interesting things about this comet and what it can show us about the sun, then suddenly the author says (mildly paraphrasing here), “Holy shit! It came round the other side!” A decent video of the comet shooting out the other side is here.

The comet actually left its tail behind as it whipped around the sun, and there’s really cool footage of the comet streaking toward the sun, leaving a trail (probably) whipped around by magnetic storms. It’s all pretty cool.

Part of what’s interesting to me about all this is just how many devices were available to observe the course of comet Lovejoy. In the coming days, as more data comes in from other observers, we stand to learn a lot about our home star. You know I’ll be checking in.

[Edit] Let’s try embedding this youtube video, shall we? It’s a little wider than my format, but I think that will be all right this once.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPJ3Xbl9nZM

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