We humble beings residing on Mother Earth have been treated to quite the celestial show of late. Back in October there was the Orionid Meteor Shower. Then the aurora borealis paid the southern U.S. a visit, followed by an asteroid fly-by, all of it eclipsed on December 10 by, well, the earth’s passage between the moon and the sun.
Just before the Winter Solstice, a newly discovered comet named Lovejoy (after Terry Lovejoy, the amateur Australian astronomer who discovered it on November 27) dove into the sun—and survived, though without its tail.
But on December 22, as Northern Hemisphere dwellers cherished what little sunlight they were graced with on the shortest day of the year, astronaut Dan Burbank was astounded at the sight that eased into view over the earth’s horizon as the space station flew above Tasmania. It was comet Lovejoy, sporting a new tail.
"The most amazing thing I've ever seen in space," Burbank said in a NASA video describing the comet and its length. "And that's saying an awful lot because every day is filled with amazing things.... It was about 20 moon diameters.”
Burbank also snapped about 100 photos that NASA will put into a time-lapse video sequence. In the meantime, they released some shots.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Australian astronomer Colin Legg glimpsed the comet rising just before dawn. His stunning video shows the tail arcing just above the horizon. As the Christmas song goes, "Star of Wonder, Star of Night/ Star of Royal Beauty Bright...