January 5, 2010
NASA Captures Comet Being Consumed By The Sun
NASA scientists have spotted a comet in space being 'eaten' as it flies too close to the sun, Dailymail UK reported.
Footage captured by NASA's solar-focused agency - Solar and Helioscopic Observatory (SOHO) - showed the Kreutz Sungrazer as it made its fateful approach.
Click on "Related Video" above to see a video.
Experts say Kreutz Sungrazers are characterized by orbits that take them extremely close to the Sun.
German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz theorized that they are fragments of one large comet that broke up several centuries ago.
They are named after Kreutz, who first worked out that they were related.
The agency gathered the footage using a Coronagraph, which blocks the brightest object in an image, according to a SOHO spokeswoman.
The Coronagraph allows activity around the sun - such as the comet's approach - to be viewed.
It is known as a 'false eclipse' and displays the actual footage of the comet's final seconds, presented in a way that it can be seen by the naked eye.
Since the launch of the SOHO satellite in 1995, hundreds of Kreutz comets, some only a few feet in diameter, have been discovered.
However, none have survived the section of their orbit closest to the sun, much like the comet captured in these images.
But new clusters of Kreutz comets will approach the sun over the next few decades, treating stargazers to more spectacular shows, experts say.
Image Caption: The SOHO spacecraft captured the arcing orbit of a sungrazing comet as it approached the Sun (Jan. 3, 2010) and evaporated. The comet is believed to belong to the Kreutz family of comets that broke up from a much larger comet many hundreds of years ago. They are known to orbit close to the Sun. This comet was one of the brightest sungrazing comets that SOHO has observed in its 14 years of operation. SOHO's coronagraph instruments block out the Sun with an occulting disk; the white circle represents the size of the Sun. The comet was discovered on Jan. 2nd by Australian amateur astronomer Alan Watson, who was inspecting images obtained by STEREO-A's Heliospheric Imager on Dec. 30, 2009.
The bright object slowly moving right to left below the Sun in the wider field of view movie clip (blue) is Venus. In that clip a smaller Mercury can also be seen moving from the left edge to just about above the Sun.
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