Dec. 16, 2011: This morning, an armada of spacecraft witnessed something that many experts thought impossible. Comet Lovejoy flew through the hot atmosphere of the sun and emerged intact.
"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 (movie) and then come back out again (movie).
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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