Big Snapshot: Comet Lovejoy puts on stunning show for astronauts
Thu, Dec 22 2011 at 4:18 PM
A comet with a death wish
NASA Commander Dan Burbank captured this spectacular image of the newfound Comet Lovejoy on Dec. 21 from the International Space Station orbiting about 240 miles above the Earth’s horizon.
Discovered just last month by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Brisbane, Australia, the comet is classified as a Kruetz Sungrazer because it passes so close to the sun. After hurling itself on a collision course with the sun last week, the comet surprised astronomers by avoiding vaporization as it grazed the star's corona. Named for 19th-century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, all Kreutz sungrazers are believed to be mere remnants of a single massive comet that broke apart several centuries ago.
In addition to this stunning photo, hundreds of other photos of the comet were captured by Burbank, who described the comet as "the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space." (Photo: Dan Burbank/NASA)
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