First Comet Spotted By Ground-Based Telescope In Almost 40 Years

December 14, 2011

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Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy spotted a Kreutz family comet by using a ground-based telescope for the first time since the 1970s.

Lovejoy announced he discovered C/2011 W3, or comet Lovejoy, from the ground on December 2, 2011.

NASA’s Solar Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO) has spotted over 2100 comets, most of which are from the Kreutz family.  This family of comets graze the solar atmosphere where they usually evaporate completely.

Discovering a comet before it moves into view of space-based telescopes allows scientists the chance to prepare the telescopes for the best possible observations.

NASA said scientists have high hopes that this might be an exceptionally bright comet, making it easier to view and study.

The space agency said that comet Lovejoy should be coming into view of SOHO on Wednesday.  It will likely pass within about 87,000 miles of the sun, and disappear behind the northwest limb of the sun shortly after it is seen by Hinode.

The comet moved into the view of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) on Monday, December 12.

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & NASA Reports

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