XRT Picture of the Week (XPOW)

XRT Picture of the Week (XPOW)

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2012 January 10

Mouse over for a helping arrow.
Click for the "difference" movie to clear things up. Also available on YouTube.

Can you spot Comet Lovejoy?

Believe it or not, the gif animation above bears the faintest of emission signatures from comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), a member of the Kreutz family of sungrazing comets. Watch for a faint, blurred streak from left to right, and mouse over the animation for a helping hand. Once you've given up or located the comet, click the gif animation to view the "difference" movie, which picks up motion by subtracting an average background. Lovejoy made its closest approach (perihelion) to the Sun on December 16th, 2011, an encounter that most astronomers thought it could not survive. Bucking expectations, the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observed Lovejoy's escape from the Sun, and it is this part of the comet's saga that XRT was able to briefly capture. Lovejoy was also observed during both its approach and escape by a suite of solar telescopes, as well as ground-based observers, and has the distinction of being the only one of hundreds of Kreutz family comets to escape the Sun after perihelion since the launch of the SOHO satellite in 1995.

Keywords: Comet
Filters: Al_mesh

(Prepared by Patrick McCauley)

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