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A Christmas comet for Solar Orbiter

Written by  Tuesday, 21 December 2021 14:00
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Comet Leonard by SoloHI

Comet Leonard, a mass of space dust, rock and ice about a kilometre across is heading for a close pass of the Sun on 3 January, and the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft has been watching its evolution over the last days.

Ground-based telescopes and other spacecraft have also been following the comet on its journey through the Solar System and providing images, including NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory-A spacecraft – see here.

Comet Leonard, formally known as C/2021 A1 (Leonard), was discovered in January 2021 by Gregory Leonard, who spotted it in images taken from the Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Its closest pass on 3 January 2022 will take it within 90 million kilometres of the Sun, slightly more than half Earth’s distance to the Sun. If it doesn’t disintegrate, its trajectory will fling it into interstellar space, never to return.


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