Europe’s sun mission flew through the tail of Comet Leonard

As Comet Leonard bid farewell to Earth and flew past Venus, a sun-studying spacecraft flew through the comet’s long tail, giving humans a new perspective on the icy wanderer.

Discovered last January and also known as Comet C/2021 A1, Comet Leonard was perhaps the most spectacular visitor for skywatchers in 2021. The object put on quite a show as it zoomed toward the sun, particularly in the days leading up to its closest approach to Earth on Dec. 12. And coincidentally, the European Space Agency (ESA) Solar Orbiter mission flew through the comet’s tail as the spacecraft continued its own journey to study the sun, offering scientists quite a bonus.