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Topic: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Some Comets like it Hot

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Comets are icy and fragile. They spend most of their time orbiting through the dark outskirts of the solar system safe from destructive rays of intense sunlight.  The deepest cold is their natural habitat.

Last November amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy discovered a different kind of comet.  The icy fuzzball he spotted in the sky over his backyard observatory in Australia was heading almost directly for the sun.  On December 16th, less than three weeks after he found it, Comet Lovejoy would swoop through the sun’s atmosphere only 120,000 km above the stellar surface.

Astronomers soon realized a startling fact: Comet Lovejoy likes it hot.

Comet Lovejoy at sunrise on December 25th, 2011. Wayne England took the picture from Poocher Swamp, west of Bordertown, South Australia

Comet Lovejoy at sunrise on December 25th, 2011. Wayne England took the picture from Poocher Swamp, west of Bordertown, South Australia

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