GADGETS

New views from space view of Comet Leonard rising toward the sun


Comet Leonard as observed by the Solar Orbiter.
GIF: ESA / NASA / NRL / SoloHI / Guillermo Stenborg / Gizmodo

A spacecraft gazing at the sun operated by NASA and European Void Agency Unique views of Comet Leonard, a hypervelocity mass of rock, dust and ice currently traveling through the inner solar system.

Comets often appear out of the blue, or more precisely, from outside the Oort Cloud. This is the case with Comet Leonard, who became Visible For astronomers in early January this year.

Leonard is here for a good while, but not for long. The comet is rapidly approaching perihelion, which is its closest distance to the Sun along its orbital path, causing it to do distinct cometary things, such as glowing and growing a gaseous and dusty tail. It’s very faint, but it should be Visible When viewed through backyard telescopes or binoculars.

Leonard’s closest approach will occur on January 3, at which time it will come within 56 million miles (90 million miles) of the Sun. The half-mile-wide comet, assuming it does not disintegrate, will begin its 35,000-year long journey to the outer worlds of the solar system.

Comet Leonard’s Journey Being dated by Astronomy scientists on Earth, but also by telescopes in space, specifically Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory – A (STEREO-A), operated by NASA, and solar orbitIt is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency. Both work on the Sun, but mission controllers have recently used space instruments to do some comet detection.

A view of Comet Leonard as taken by NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft.
GIF: NASA/NRL/Karl Battams

STEREO-A, using the SECCHI/HI-2 telescope on board, captured a moving “different picture” of Leonard. Differences images are created by subtracting the current frame from the previous frame to highlight the differences between them, according to to NASA. In this case, the animation captured subtle changes in the comet’s appearance, including the lengthening of its tail.

The Solar Orbiter, with the Solar Orbiter Imager (SoloHI) on board, captured a video of Leonard using frames collected between December 17 and December. 19. When SoloHI collected these images, Leonard was “almost between the Sun and the spacecraft, with tails of gas and dust pointed toward the spacecraft,” ESA explained in statment. “Towards the end of the image sequence, our view of both ends improves as the angle of view at which we see the comet increases, and SoloHI gets a side view of the comet,” the space agency said.

When watching the video, you can see the Milky Way in the background, while both Venus and Mercury do some light blasting in time in the upper right corner (Venus is the brighter of the two objects). The Solar Orbiter continued to observe Leonard until December 22, after which time it disappeared from SoloHI’s field of view.

Now we wait to see if Comet Leonard gets brighter or if it fails to survive its journey around the sun. It’s not the most exciting rocks to visit inside The solar system, but we can not Expect each comet to present a dazzling light show. We hope we get something more dramatic next year.

more: The Most Exciting Things Happening in Space in 2022.



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