In 2011, the comet Lovejoy crashed through the atmosphere of our sun and to the amazement of astronomers, lived to continue it’s journey.
“It’s absolutely astounding,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. “I did not think the comet’s icy core was big enough to survive plunging through the several million degree solar corona for close to an hour, but Comet Lovejoy is still with us.”
The comet’s close encounter was recorded by at least five spacecraft: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and twin STEREO probes, Europe’s Proba2 microsatellite, and the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The most dramatic footage so far comes from SDO, which saw the comet go in (below) and then come back out again.
For the past few weeks, Lovejoy has returned and scientists expect the next few days to be the best time to spot the survivor comet.
An easy way to spot Lovejoy is to look at the Constellation Orion.
Spot Orion’s belt, a three star formation, then look upwards towards his shoulders.
Make a line from the brightest star in Orion’s left shoulder, through his right then follow that line from Betelguese. Each night the comet will be higher in the sky over that line.
You will know when you see Lovejoy by it’s brightness surrounded by a green outer glow.