Dan Burbank, commander of the International Space Station, encountered a sight Wednesday even more incredible than the everyday views from his vantage point 240 miles above Earth's horizon. The amazing Comet Lovejoy, which had recently "grazed" the sun, was captured on camera by Burbank who describes the sight as "the most amazing thing" he had "ever seen in space:"
The video is hundreds of still images of the comet taken by Burbank at nighttime on December 21. The comet was only discovered on November 27 of this year and was named after the amateur Australian astronomer who spotted it, Terry Lovejoy.
The 660-foot-wide icy rock has already survived a recent brush with destruction, coming uncomfortably close to the sun last week. Only 10 percent of the comet - which was probably millions of tons - survived the encounter.
Astronomers say the comet came close to where temperatures hit several million degrees.U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams tells the Associated Press that Lovejoy came within 75,000 miles of the sun's surface. W. Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, tells AP that the newly discovered comet probably is related to a comet that came by Earth on the way to the sun in 1106. Astronomers say it may be another 800 or 900 years before it nears the sun again.
Gabriel Brammer from ESO captured an incredible time-lapse video of the comet from earth on December 22. PHYSORG reports that Gabriel was finishing his shift as support astronomer at the Paranal Observatory when Comet Lovejoy rose over the horizon just before dawn.