March 25, 2023

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The brightest "Christmas comet" for 2021 was seen approaching Earth (photos and video)

The brightest “Christmas comet” for 2021 was seen approaching Earth (photos and video)

Since its first discovery in early 2021, astronomers have been closely following what has been described as the brightest comet of the year.

Despite its brilliance, it was somewhat difficult for the human eye to detect on Earth, but NASA and the European Space Agency’s spacecraft were able to capture the comet Leonard during its continuous penetration journey toward the inner solar system.

Two spacecraft orbiting the Sun have received the best view of the comet, and the European Space Agency on Tuesday released a clip showing comet Leonard – known as the “Christmas Comet” – exploding in space.

The dusty, rocky and icy comet Leonard, about half a mile (1 km) wide in space, will end its 40,000-year journey on January 3, 2022, when it moves very close to the Sun.

Prior to reaching this orbit, NASA’s Solar Terrain Relations Observatory, which has been monitoring the comet since early November, was able to provide a moving image of the comet, also known as the SECCHI / HI-2 telescope, C / 2021 A1.

To highlight the differences between the comet’s current and previous laws, the observatory was able to create an animated “difference image”. Images of differences are useful to see the subtle changes in Leonard’s ion tail (the path of the ionized gas leaving the comet’s body or nucleus), which becomes longer and brighter at the end of the clip.

The Solar Orbital Solar Imaging (Solohi) instrument aboard the NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, was able to capture a video between December 17 and 19, 2021.

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Venus and Mercury can be seen in the upper right of the video. The flower appears bright and moves from left to right.

SoloHI will continue to monitor the comet until it returns from view on December 22, 2021.

“When Solohi recorded these images, the comet was between the sun and the spacecraft, and gas and dust tails were moving towards the spacecraft,” the European Space Agency said in a statement.

The comet moved closer to Earth on December 12, and Venus on December 17, now continuing its journey toward the Sun, where it was closest to its perihelion, on January 3, 2022 (exactly one year later), from our star At a distance of 90 million kilometers, it has gone half the distance near the Earth. If it does not scatter, its path will blow it into the galaxy and never return.