Content prepared in collaboration with Discovery Space partner Lowell Observatory.
Lowell Observatory astronomers had a huge responsibility earlier this year: they were planning for the arrival of an ancient VIP (or should I say VIC?). Comet Lulin was making its rapid pass of the inner Solar System, putting on a show for observers. However, to see the "dirty snowball" astronomers had to be patient.
Although Lulin was discovered in 2007, it drifted past the sun in 2008. But astronomers were prepared in January 2009 when it re-started its display in the night sky.
A brief glimpse
"Lulin was a challenging comet to observe," said Matthew Knight, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Lowell Observatory. "It was moving rapidly around the sun in the opposite direction as the Earth. As a result, it was behind the sun until early January. When we were first able to observe it in late January it was only visible for a couple of hours just before sunrise. A month later (late February) it was up all night, by late March it was setting shortly after midnight, and by late April it was just visible for a couple of hours after sunset."
"One aspect that made Lulin ...