Lovejoy, the giant, green comet

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[CLICK ON IMAGE FOR HIGH RESOLUTION, Rogelio Bernal Andreo, Deep Sky Colors

lovejoySweeping north in planet Earth’s sky, Comet Lovejoy’s greenish coma and blue tinted ion tail stretched across this field of stars in the constellation Taurus on Jan. 13.

The inset at the upper left shows the 1/2 degree angular size of the full moon for scale. So Lovejoy’s coma appears only a little smaller (but much fainter) than a full moon on the sky, and its tail is visible for over 4 degrees across the frame. …

Blown by the solar wind, the comet’s tenuous, structured ion tail streams away from the Sun, growing as this Comet Lovejoy heads toward perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, on Jan. 30.

While diatomic carbon (C2) gas fluorescing in sunlight produces the coma’s green color, the fainter bluish tail is tinted by emission from ionized carbon monoxide (CO+).

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