• Released Thursday, January 19, 2012

On November 27, 2011, an Australian amateur astronomer named Terry Lovejoy discovered a comet the old-fashioned way: from the ground, with his own personal telescope. Finding a comet before it moves into view of space-based telescopes gives scientists the opportunity to prepare their instruments to make the best possible observations. The sungrazing comet—named Lovejoy, or C/2011 W3 in the technical vernacular—ultimately crossed the sightlines of the mirrors and lenses on no less than five satellite observatories. And the results were spectacular. As it moved toward the sun, many comet-watchers predicted it would evaporate as it flew within 87,000 miles of the roiling hot surface. But comet Lovejoy elated spectators when it survived its death-defying trip and re-emerged on the other side, as shown in the first video below, captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite on December 15, 2011.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Images and video of Lovejoy comet captured from space courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

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This page was originally published on Thursday, January 19, 2012.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:53 PM EDT.