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A Sun-Grazing Comet and the Secrets of the Sun’s Corona

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In December 2011, astrophysicists watched as the comet Lovejoy hurtled into the Sun. Lovejoy belongs to a family of comets known as sun-grazers, which occasionally approach the Sun and fizzle out in its atmosphere. Unlike the sun-grazers that came before, Lovejoy was large enough to enter the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the solar corona, and fly right out through the other side. Only 140,000 km away from the Sun at its closest, Lovejoy served as a probe for a region of the corona that has never been reached by spacecraft. In this video, Cooper Downs explains how Lovejoy’s approach was tracked and what it revealed about this mysterious region around the sun.

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