Astronomers tracked a comet, named Lovejoy, in December 2011 as it flew only 87,000 miles above the surface of the sun and survived. The encounter revealed that there is plenty to learn about the sun's magnetic field. Scientists observed "wiggles" in Lovejoy's tail, suggesting that the sun's magnetic field interacted with the tail's charged ions. Researchers collected data to create a magnetohydrodynamic model of the sun's atmosphere. Scientists will have additional opportunities to observe similar flybys, as more comets are forecast to closely encounter the sun in this decade.

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