The ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) saw a bright comet plunge toward the sun at nearly 1.3 million miles (2.09 million km) per hour yesterday (August 3-4, 2016).
Comets are chunks of ice and dust that orbit the sun. This comet was what’s called a sungrazing comet. Sungrazing comets are a special class of comets that come very close to the sun. This comet didn’t fall into the sun, but rather whipped around it. That is, it would have if it had survived its journey. Like most sungrazing comets, it was torn apart and vaporized by the intense forces near the sun.
According to a NASA statement:
This comet, first spotted by SOHO on August 1, is part of the Kreutz family of comets, a group of comets with related orbits that broke off of a huge comet several centuries ago.
Bottom line: Animation from SOHO shows sungrazing comet on August 3-4, 2016
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.