Comet defies death, brushes up to sun and lives

December 16, 2011 in Astronomy & Space / Space Exploration
Image of sun courtesy of NASA.

A small comet survived what astronomers figured would be a sure death when it danced uncomfortably close to the broiling sun Thursday night.

Comet Lovejoy was only discovered a couple of weeks ago. It was supposed to melt as it came so close to the sun that the temperatures would hit several million degrees.

But astronomers watching live with telescopes were shocked when a bright spot emerged on the sun's other side. Lovejoy lived.

The comet came within 75,000 miles of the sun. For a small object often described as a dirty snowball, that brush with the sun should have been fatal.

Astronomers say it probably wasn't deadly because the comet was larger than they thought.

Read an update: Comet Lovejoy plunges into the sun and survives (w/ video)

©2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

"Comet defies death, brushes up to sun and lives" December 16, 2011