New comet plunges into the sun as NASA watches
Previously unknown comet recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory that watches the sun.
Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 03:50 PM
Images of the sun taken by SOHO in 2001. (Photo: NASA)
Scientists believe that some 1,600 comets in our solar system swing close to the sun in their travels. Many are recorded, some are not. Space.com reports that a previously unknown comet recently appeared from the far reaches of the galaxy to a spacecraft monitored by NASA and the European Space Agency. But before scientists could determine where the comet came from, it plunged directly into the sun.
The spacecraft witness to this comet’s demise is called the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The now “dead” comet was discovered just last week by the spacecraft. It was the third comet to come close to the sun this year, and it may have been part of the Kreutz comets, named after the 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz. Kreutz believed these smaller comets had once been one large comet that broke apart hundreds of years ago.
Space.com writes that the SOHO spacecraft is in “a prime position to catch sun-grazing comets as they swing by or are devoured by the sun.” SOHO has been watching the sun since 1995. Its mission is to observe the sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind. Ultimately, the spacecraft downloads its information to large radio dishes around the world, all of which make up NASA's Deep Space Network.
For further reading: Comet eaten by the sun as spacecraft watches