Comet Leonard had a close shave with a spacecraft near Sun, check what happened

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 22, 2021, 04:22 PM(IST)

This handout picture taken with a telescope and released on December 9, 2021 shows the comet C/2021 A1 Comet Leonard Photograph:( AFP )

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Comet Leonard is advansing towards the Sun. It will either be gobbled up or be flung in space due to Sun's gravity

Comet Leonard, the brightest comet in the year 2021 flew by Earth recently. Scientists obviously had their eyes and lenses at the celestial body but many amateur astronomers pointed their telescopes at it as well. Those who could spot it grabbed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as the comet will next be seen after 35,000 years. That is if Sun doesn't decide to gobble it up this time.

Talking about the Sun, the Comet Leonard made a very close approach to one of our spacecrafts in the area. NASA and European Space Agency's (ESA) solar orbitter spacecraft, like its name suggests, orbits the Sun and makes important observations about our only star.

Comet Leonard passed very close to the solar orbitter between December 17 and December 19. 

Was there any damage to the orbitter? Thankfully not.

Was the operation of the orbitter hampered in any way? No.

Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI), the spacecraft captured images of the comet as it passed by. n

“When SoloHi recorded these images, the comet was approximately between the sun and the spacecraft, with its gas and dust tails pointing towards the spacecraft,” said the ESA in an official statement.

The spacecraft will continue to observe the comet till December 22. After that the comet will move out of its field of vision.

It is not exactly known what will happen of the comet as at its closest approach, it will be just 90 million miles away from the Sun. There is a chance that the icy comet will break-up due to the heat. Otherwise, Sun's gravity may fling it in space away from itself.

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