Comet Death Observed for First Time (July 8, 2011)
Hi-res TIF image (2.2M)
As SOHO observed with its two coronagraphs for about a day (July 5-6, 2011), an icy comet flew in from behind the Sun and met its end. According to SOHO Project Scientist Bernhard Fleck, "this is one of the brightest sun-grazers SOHO has recorded, similar to the Christmas comet of 1996." A comet diving towards the Sun is a fairly common event.
Hi-res TIF image (1.5M)
But there is a good reason why scientists were delighted with this particular event: the Solar Dynamics Observatory AIA imager actually spotted the comet as it disintegrated over about a ten hour period, something never observed before. The angle of the comet's orbit brought it across the front half of the Sun where it seemed to brighten when it stuck hotter masses of particles above the Sun;s surface. The comet was probably a member of the Kreutz sun-grazer family.
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.
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