Amazing Photo of Green Comet Lovejoy Captured by Dark Energy Camera
The 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera in Chile captured this photo of Comet Lovejoy on Dec. 27, 2014.
Credit: Fermilab’s Marty Murphy, Nikolay Kuropatkin, Huan Lin and Brian Yanny

The world's most powerful digital camera caught an amazing glimpse of Comet Lovejoy when it passed in front of the sensitive field of view.

The "accidental observation" of Comet Lovejoy on Dec. 27 shows the comet's nucleus and coma splayed across several frames the camera took. At the time, Lovejoy was 51 million miles (82 million kilometers) from Earth. Ordinarily, the Dark Energy Camera looks at far more distant objects; it can image things up to eight billion miles (12.8 billion kilometers) away.

"Our favorite [memory] all was the accidental observation of Comet Lovejoy," wrote the blog Dark Energy Detectives (a blog of the Dark Energy Survey) of the sighting. "It reminds us that before we can look out beyond our galaxy to the far reaches of the universe, we need to watch out for celestial objects that are much closer to home."

The image was captured while astronomers were scanning the southern sky for the five-year Dark Energy Survey, which aims to learn more about dark energy, the mysterious force that is accelerating the universe's expansion.

The camera is 570 megapixels and is designed to look for lights from galaxies and stars far away from Earth. Its field of view is about 2.2 degrees, equivalent to an area of sky 20 times the size of the moon seen from Earth. 

Comets are debris left over after the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. Let's see what you know about these ancient and elusive celestial wanderers.
True Color Image of Comet iSON
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Comet Quiz: Test Your Cosmic Knowledge
Comets are debris left over after the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago. Let's see what you know about these ancient and elusive celestial wanderers.
True Color Image of Comet iSON
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The comet, officially called Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2, is named after the amateur astronomer in Australia who spotted it. Terry Lovejoy has found five comets to date; all comets are automatically named after the person or entity who first discovers it. This latest one was discovered in August 2014.

Lovejoy appears to glow green in telescope views of amateur astronomers, who have captured numerous images and video of the comet since its discovery. 

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