Sungrazer’s “If”

This song has burned a hole in my head.

Comet Lovejoy - Seen from the International Space Station

Comet Lovejoy, formally designated C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy), is a long-period comet and Kreutz Sungrazer. It was discovered in November 2011 by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. The comet’s perihelion (point of of closest distance to the sun) took it through the Sun’s corona on 16 December 2011, after which it emerged intact, though greatly impacted by the event

Credit: NASA/Astronaught Dan Burbank

A small comet plunged into the sun on August 20th. Just before it arrived, the sun expelled a magnificent full-halo CME.

In the final frames of the movie, the comet can be seen furiously vaporizing. Indeed, those were the comet’s final frames. It did not emerge again from its flyby of the hot sun. “With a diameter of perhaps a few tens of meters, this comet was clearly far too small to survive the intense bombardment of solar radiation,” comments Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab, who studies sungrazing comets.

The CME (coronal mass ejection) came from an explosion on the farside of the sun. Although the CME and the comet appear to intersect, there was probably no interaction between the two. The comet is in the foreground and the farside CME is behind it.

Occasionally, readers ask if sundiving comets can trigger solar explosions. There’s no known mechanism for comets to spark solar flares. Comets are thought to be too small and fragile to destabilize the sun’s magnetic field. Plus, this comet was still millions of kilometers from the sun when the explosion unfolded.

The comet, R.I.P., was a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one attracts attention.

As Earth passes through the wake of one CME, which did little to stir geomagnetic activity on Aug. 20th, another CME is on the way. NOAA forecasters expect a coronal mass ejection hurled into space yesterday by an erupting magnetic filament to deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on Aug. 23rd. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.

Listen to radar echoes from satellites and meteors, live on listener-supported Space Weather Radio.

via spaceweather


Comet Lovejoy (2011 W3) rising over Western Australia (via


Comet Lovejoy evidently survives a close solar passage

A newfound comet defied long odds today (Dec. 15), surviving a suicidal dive through the sun’s hellishly hot atmosphere, according to NASA scientists.

Comet Lovejoy plunged through the sun’s corona at about 7 p.m. EST today (midnight GMT on Dec. 16), coming within 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) of our star’s surface. Temperatures in the corona can reach 2 million degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 million degrees Celsius), so most researchers expected the icy wanderer to be completely destroyed.

But Lovejoy proved to be made of tough stuff. A video taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft showed the icy object emerging from behind the sun and zipping back off into space.


Common Believer by Sungrazer


Sungrazer “Wild Goose”

Guys, a comet just nearly hit the sun. If you have any love of cool things or space, go to and configure these options: 

  • Image type: LASCO C3
  • Resolution: As you wish, but 512’s faster
  • Start date: 2011-12-14
  • End date: 2011-12-18
  • Latest n images: Leave blank.

It is amazing. Seriously.

You’ll also want to hit ‘Faster’ four or five times once the video’s loaded.