NASA astronaut and Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank photographed this beautiful view of the “sungrazing” Comet Lovejoy as it hung above the Earth’s horizon on Wednesday (Dec. 21). The green haze is known as “airglow.”
Comet Lovejoy became quickly famous when it skimmed above the sun’s surface last week, diving deep into the the corona. It was assumed the icy body would vaporize. This in itself is a great discovery — it was the first time a sungrazer had been spotted by a ground observer before a space observatory. But against all the odds, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted the tenacious comet zoom behind the sun after swinging through the solar atmosphere. It has since put on a wonderful cometary show for astronomers as it flies back into deep space.
Fortunately, the show wasn’t just for ground-based observers, it just so happened that Burbank had the best (off-world) seat in the house.