Left Image: C/2011 W3 Lovejoy in SOHO C3 (16 December UT), astonishingly, it has left its tail behind (the comet the is bright object to the right of the occulting disk). Right Image: C/2011 W3 Lovejoy in STEREO beacon (low resolution) images in COR2A (16 December), the disconnected tail can't be seen in this image. Click to embiggen, scroll down for animations. Image credit NASA/SOHO and NASA/SECCHI.
Well, that was amazing! Not only did comet Lovejoy survive its passage over the Sun (captured here is this astonishing SDO animation), but it is still bright, although it has left most of its tail behind. According to Karl Battams, it is the brightest Kreutz comet SOHO has ever seen. And apparently an ion tail has never been seen on a Kreutz comet before.
There is intense discussion on the Comets ML list. Is comet Lovejoy bigger than we thought, are we seeing vaporizing iron? This comet, as well as being spectacular, will certainly add to our current meagre knowledge of Kreutz comets.
Congratulations Terry on an amazing discovery, and once again congratulations to the STEREO, SOHO and SDO teams for capturing this amazing comet.
What a ride! Earlier images and animations, Solar exit, Solar contact, 16 Dec approach, 15 Dec, 13 Dec, 12 Dec.
Animation showing the comet going behind the occulting disk then coming out without its tail.
Lovejoy heads towards the STEREO Ahead C2 occulting disk and comes out the other side sans tail. Low resolution beacon data, drop out of data in the middle so you miss the comet going behind the occulting disk.