Friday, January 06, 2012
Comet Lovejoy blazes toward the sun and its tail wiggles as it interacts with the solar wind. Lovejoy survived -- and it was all captured by the SOHO spacecraft, hovering in solar orbit about a million miles from Earth. SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, was launched by NASA and the European Space Agency in 1995. Its images are shot through different filters, which is why the Comet Love joy images appear blue; others are in red, green or gold. The sun itself is blocked by a disc in the camera so that its light will not drown out the outer layers of the solar atmosphere, the violent flares and the passing comets that SOHO watches. Watch the videoAs it got closer to the sun, the tail of the comet stretched about 4.5 million kilometers (2.8 million miles) behind. Scientists expected that even though the comet wasn't actually falling into the sun itself, it would dissipate as its dust and vapor streamed into space.