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  LASCO - the great comet hunter

LASCO - the great comet hunter

 

LASCO was built to get a better view of the Sun's corona, but as a bonus we have seen lots of other things too. Because it can watch the Sun all the time, LASCO has become a champion comet hunter. Over 1,000 new comets have been discovered so far.

 

Like all comets, the one in this picture was named after its discoverer, who wasYuji Hyakutake, a Japanese amateur astronomer. In this image, we see the comet as it passes close to the Sun. Its two tails, one made of dust and the other of gas, can be clearly seen.

 

Check out this LASCO movie of Comet Hyakutake, taken in May 1996.

 
Hyakutake
You can see more movies in our Gallery   [Movie file 1mb or more - High quality]
 

 

The most famous comet of all is Halley's comet. It is named after Edmund Halley who calculated the comet's orbit after it appeared in 1607. The comet had actually been seen many times before, including in 1066 AD on the night before the Battle of Hastings. It orbits the Sun every 76 years and is next due to be easily visible in the year 2061.

     
     

Halley's Comet

 

Edmund Halley’s comet

     

Over 1,000 comets that come very close to the Sun have been discovered with LASCO - we call them ‘Sungrazers’.

     

A comet is like a dirty snowball moving around the Sun. As it gets close to the Sun the heat starts to melt the ice and long tails of gas and dust can form. If a comet gets too close to the Sun, it can be captured and completely disappear into the Sun. It's a dangerous business grazing near the Sun!

You can see more movies in our Gallery   [Movie file 1mb or more - High quality]

In Greek mythology Icarus flew too close to the Sun and burnt his wings off. Have a look at this movie to see what happened when two Sungrazers got too close.

           
           

Have a look at these movies and see what LASCO sees in the background while it’s staring at the Sun. As you watch you’ll see the stars of the Milky Way floating past during nine days of observations.

  You can see more movies in our Gallery   [Movie file 1mb or more - High quality]
         
         

 

An astronomer called Carolyn Shoemaker has discovered more than 28 comets. She discovered the famous Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet which crashed into Jupiter in 1994.
The Levy part of the comet's name is her husband (David Levy).

         
   

 

   
 
 

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