Christmas Comet Lovejoy
Officially known as C/2011 W3, comet Lovejoy was discovered by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy of Brisbane, Australia, in late November. The ball of ice and dust was identified as a Kreutz sungrazer, a family of comets thought to be fragments from a larger body that broke up centuries ago.
Astronomers predicted comet Lovejoy would be destroyed when it made a close pass by the sun late on December 15, eastern time. But to the surprise of many—including its discoverer—the comet survived its solar encounter and reappeared after a few hours.
Although Lovejoy lost its original tail as it skimmed the sun's surface, the comet "reappeared almost like a point and redeveloped a tail on the way out, which I thought was quite amazing," astronomer Lovejoy told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Comet Lovejoy became visible to the naked eye in the Southern Hemisphere last week—and continued to streak across predawn skies through the holiday weekend.