In a happy accident, Comet Lovejoy just happened to be in the field of view of the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, the world's most powerful digital camera. One member of the observing team said it was a "shock" to see Comet Lovejoy pop up on the display in the control room.
Taken by the Dark Energy Camera of Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, this accidental picture of Comet Lovejoy must be one of the most beautiful comet portraits we've ever seen.
This photo combines a series of November 2013 observations by NASA's NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer) mission, spanning half a degree. The red color, which makes Lovejoy stand out so clearly, is due to gas and dust in the comet's coma.
Comet Q2 Lovejoy passed closest to Earth on January 7th and has been putting on a great show this past week. Glowing at magnitude +4 with a bluish coma nearly as big as the Full Moon, the comet's easy to see with the naked eye from the right location if you know exactly where to look.
There have been some great images and video of Comet Lovejoy's close encounter with the Sun, but this video put together by Scott Wiessinger from Goddard Spaceflight Center combines and zooms in on the best views from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which adjusted its cameras in order to watch the trajectory.