Bruce Murray Space Image Library
STEREO Spies McNaught
The SECCHI/HI-1A instrument on the NASA STEREO-A (Ahead) spacecraft took the frames for this spectacular video during the period of January 11- 18, 2007. (The still shows the comet on January 17.) The full field of view of the HI instrument (a wide-angle sky imager) is centered at about 14 degrees from Sun's center and is 20 degrees wide. The comet tail is approximately 7 degrees in length and shows multiple rays.
The image shows the comet tail in spectacular detail, especially once the bright comet head left the field of view and stopped saturating the images. These images are very likely the most detailed images ever taken of a comet while it is very close (0.17 Astronomical Units, which is even closer than Mercury) to the Sun. It has been described by one experienced comet scientist as "one of, if not the most, beautiful uninterrupted sequence of images of a comet ever made."
Also visible in these movies is Venus (bright object left of center at the bottom) and Mercury (appears from the right later in the sequence). Even their brightness creates saturation streaks on the very sensitive imager.
A movie version may be downloaded here. For more information on these observations see the Sungrazing Comet page from the STEREO's SECCHI team.