For the first time, a death-diving comet has been observed as it vaporized in the sun’s atmosphere, thanks to new data from a NASA satellite. More than a thousand known comets are so-called Kreutz sungrazers, a family of icy bodies that pass very near to the sun’s surface on their orbits through the solar system. Using NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), astronomers are able to spot many of these sungrazers as they get close to our star. Now, using a variety of data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), astronomers have been able to watch a sungrazer’s last moments as it disintegrated inside the sun’s atmosphere.
In this year astronomers could discover planets in other solar systems, also amateur astronomers discovered new asteroids, comets, and some comet fly at minimum distance from our planet.
In 2011, most of the best meteor showers occurred when the moon was close to full. But 2012 starts out with a fine meteor shower, the Quadrantids, with absolutely no moon to interfere with the viewing.
The 2012 Quadrantids, a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching.
International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank captured spectacular imagery of Comet Lovejoy from about 240 miles above the Earth’s horizon on Wednesday, December 21, 2011.
Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are designing a small harpoon that would fire into and collect samples from nearby comets.
According to NASA scientists a newfound comet defied long odds on December 15, surviving a suicidal dive through the sun’s hellishly hot atmosphere. Comet Lovejoy plunged through the sun’s corona at about 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT on December 16), coming within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of our star’s surface.
But on December 2, 2011, the discovery of a new Kreutz-family comet was announced. Discovering a comet before it moves into view of space-based telescopes, gives scientists the opportunity to prepare the telescopes for the best possible observations. Indeed, since comet Lovejoy was visible from the ground, scientists have high hopes that this might be an exceptionally bright comet,
A comet C/2011 W3, which was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy on November 27 using a C8 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, working with a QHY9 CCD camera, is racing toward a mid-December rendezvous with the sun, a rendezvous that it will likely not survive.