June 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Christmas comet surprises astronaut


By  on December 23, 2011 12:30 pm

 A brilliant new “star of wonder” is wowing people in parts of the world who have seen it appear in the east right before Christmas. The impressive spectacle is being put on by a comet called Lovejoy that amazingly survived a close brush with the Sun a week ago.

Since then it has grown a long, bright tail that rises before it above the eastern horizon shortly before dawn. The comet cannot be seen from northern countries where the Sun rises before it. But it looks magnificent from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The heavenly apparition came as a surprise to astronauts aboard the International Space Station as they watched it lifting up over the Earth. ISS Commander Dan Burbank was photographing lightning storms over the Pacific when he spotted the celestial visitor. He called it “the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space.”

NASA have stitched his sequence of photos of the phenomenon into a must-see video. Another stunning movie of the brilliant comet against a sky rich with stars was taken from the European Southern Observatory’s site at Paranal in Chile, by staff astronomer Gabriel Brammer.

 Read more at Skymania.

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