Comet Leonard From Two Sun Watching Spacecraft
Science & Technology

Stunning Views of Comet Leonard Captured From Two Sun-Watching Spacecraft

Credit score: ESA/NASA/NRL/SoloHI/Guillermo Stenborg

When Comet Leonard, a mass of area mud, rock, and ice a few half-mile (1 kilometer) huge, makes its closest go of the Solar on January 3, 2022, will probably be a journey 40,000 years within the making. Forward of its shut go, two Solar-observing spacecraft captured these views of the comet.

The animated picture beneath was captured by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory-A spacecraft, SECCHI/HI-2 telescope, which has watched the comet since early November. This animated “distinction picture” was created by subtracting the present body from the earlier body to focus on variations between them. Distinction photos are helpful for seeing refined adjustments in Leonard’s ion tail (the path of ionized gases streaming from the comet’s physique, or nucleus), which turns into longer and brighter towards the tip of the clip.

Distinction picture, which highlights refined adjustments in comet Leonard’s tail over two frames, captured by the HI-2 telescope aboard NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft. Credit score: NASA/NRL/Karl Battams

The video beneath, captured between December 17-19, 2021 by the Photo voltaic Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) aboard the ESA/NASA Photo voltaic Orbiter spacecraft, reveals Comet Leonard streaking diagonally throughout the sector of view with the Milky Manner within the background. Venus and Mercury are additionally seen within the high proper, Venus showing brighter and transferring from left to proper. Throughout this sequence, Photo voltaic Orbiter strikes towards a sidelong view of the comet, revealing extra of its tail. SoloHI will proceed observing the comet till it leaves its subject of view on December 22, 2021.

Comet Leonard was found in January 2021 by Gregory Leonard, who noticed it in photos taken from the Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Its closest go on January 3, 2022 will take it inside 56 million miles (90 million kilometers) of the Solar, barely greater than half Earth’s distance. If it doesn’t disintegrate, its trajectory will fling it into interstellar area, by no means to return.

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