Comet Q2 Lovejoy Loses Tail, Grows Another, Loses That One Too!

Panel of negative images showing the tail of Comet Lovejoy disconnecting. Credit: Hisayoshi Kato

Hasta la vista, baby! Panel of negative images showing the outer tail of Comet Lovejoy disconnecting and drifting away from the comet on and around December 23-24th. Credit: Hisayoshi Kato

Maybe you’ve seen Comet Q2 Lovejoy. It’s a big fuzzy ball in binoculars low in the southern sky in the little constellation Lepus the Hare. That’s the comet’s coma or temporary atmosphere of dust and gas that forms when ice vaporizes in sunlight from the nucleus. Until recently a faint 3° ion or gas tail trailed in the coma’s wake, but on and around December 23rd it snapped off and was ferried away by the solar wind. Just as quickly, Lovejoy re-grew a new ion tail but can’t seem to hold onto that one either. Like a feather in the wind, it’s in the process of being whisked away today.(…)
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© Bob King for Universe Today, 2014. |
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The year 2014 was a stellar one for spaceflight, what with ESA’s Rosetta mission putting a robotic lander on a distant comet and NASA successfully testing its Orion spacecraft.

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