Comet Lovejoy Grazes the Sun and SurvivesJune 21st, 2013
Comet Lovejoy passed within 140,000 km of the Sun’s surface and then reemerged. The comet’s icy core survived for close to an hour in the Sun’s several million degree solar corona. Spacecraft cannot pass that close to the Sun, so scientists were given the rare opportunity to observe Lovejoy’s path and the motion of the comet’s tail, which wiggled as it passed through the corona. That wiggle was caused by the Sun’s magnetic field, something that affects us on Earth and that scientists have been working to learn much more about. The wiggles indicate the local direction of the magnetic field in the Sun’s corona.
In this video, Flora Lichtman of NPR Science Friday talked to Cooper Downs, an astrophysicist at Predictive Science Inc. in San Diego about the comet’s path and what scientists were able to observe.