Good-bye, Streaking Comet (October 3, 2011)
A bright comet headed right towards the Sun and disintegrated (Oct. 2, 2011). It was a sungrazing comet of the type known as a Kreutz sungrazer and a particularly bright one at that. There is not a definitive orbit calculated for it yet, but most sungrazing comets have orbits that take them very close to the Sun without actually quite hitting it. However, getting so close almost always destroys these comets, so we see them going in, but not going back out.
The bright object above and to the left of the Sun in the LASCO C3 (blue) still and video clip is the planet Mercury.
The question of whether a sungrazing comet can somehow trigger a coronal mass ejection is an intriguing one. So far, the feeling is that apparent relationship between some comets and some mass ejections is simply one of co-incidence. At this stage of the solar cycle, the Sun is producing many mass ejections--in fact there were several earlier in the day--and it probably just happened by chance that one of them was around the same time as the approach of the comet. Some researchers have been looking for a more direct relationship, but nothing as yet has come out of these efforts.
For more information on Kreutz comets see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreutz_Sungrazers
SOHO began its Weekly Pick some time after sending a weekly image or video clip to the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) in New York City. There, the SOHO Weekly Pick is displayed with some annotations on a large plasma display.
If your institution would also like to receive the same Weekly Pick from us for display (usually in Photoshop or QuickTime format), please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.