Goodbye, little comet – we barely knew you. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, observed a comet brightening as it approached the Sun – until the heat became too much and the comet was destroyed. The comet, according to solar physicist Dr Keith Strong, was less of a sungrazer and more of a “sun diver.”
A large number of comets pass very close to the Sun. Over 4,000 have been discovered by SOHO alone. To survive the heat of our star at perihelion – the closest point to the Sun – you need bulk. A comet can survive it, but its mass is drastically reduced. The effects can also make the comet bright enough to be visible to the naked eye from Earth.
The majority of these sungrazers originated in one of the bright Great comets. It was shattered during its first passage through the solar system, which Aristotle and Ephorus witnessed in 371 BC. This larger object is made up of several great comets from the last two centuries. They are known as Kreutz sungrazers, and none of the smaller fragments survived the perihelion passage, according to SOHO observations.
If the destruction of the comet wasn’t enough, you can see a Coronal Mass Ejection from the opposite side of the Sun. Our star is going towards its maximum and it is ramping up its activity.
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