Comet shows you can get really close to sun and survive
Comet Tempel 1 as Seen by NASA's Stardust. NASA's Stardust-NExT mission took this image of comet Tempel 1 at 11:36 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb 14, 2011, from a distance of approximately 2,200 km. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell)
Published Friday, December 16, 2011 11:01AM EST
WASHINGTON - 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 NASA telescopes were shocked when a bright spot emerged on the sun's other side. Lovejoy lived.
The comet came within 75,000 miles (121,000 kilometres) 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 was not deadly because the comet was larger than they thought.