A Comet's End (March 4, 2004)
Hi-res TIF image (2.2M)
This rather small comet headed right into the Sun on 28 February
2004. The intensely bright light from our star makes it impossible to
view this event from Earth, but SOHO is able to block the Sun's glare
using its onboard C3 coronagraph. In just over a day, this comet made
the trip from the instrument's field of view (more than 30 solar
radii) to the Sun itself. Over its sun-study career, SOHO has
discovered over 740 comets, more than anyone or anything else ever
Many comets carve such highly elliptical paths on orbits that can take anywhere from a few years to a few hundred years to complete. But if they veer too close to the Sun, as this one and numerous others have done, they will not survive the trip. Comets are frozen balls of ice and dust that are believed to have been created when the universe was very young. Nearly all of the sungrazers observed by SOHO are members of the same group (the Kreutz group), the remains of a single, parent comet that broke up some centuries ago.
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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.