written by meghan bartels, on january 28th, 2022

what: european solar orbiter spent several days in tail of comet leonard
when: surrounding december 17, 2021
why: gathering data about the comet tail makeup
where: between earth and the sun
how: although solar orbiter was designed to study the sun rather than comets, the spacecraft does carry some instruments that were able to gather data about comet leonard’s tail during the crossing.

interesting fact: the spacecraft’s solar wind analyzer instrument suite detected ions and compounds that belong to the comet rather than the solar wind, including oxygen ions and carbon dioxide. in addition, the probe’s magnetometer picked up signs of magnetic perturbations that may have been caused by the comet’s interaction with the sun’s magnetic field, and, of course, solar orbiter snapped some photos as well. in particular, the spacecraft gathered ultraviolet images that could help scientists study water in the comet and visible-light images that could offer more details about the comet’s dust activity. (8th paragraph from the article)

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