Watch a comet plunge toward the sun

In early August, SOHO spacecraft saw this bright sungrazing comet, plunging toward the sun at nearly 1.3 million miles (2.09 million km) per hour.

Image via NASA

The disk of the sun is represented by the white circle. Image via ESA/NASA/SOHO/Joy Ng

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.

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Bottom line: Animation from SOHO shows sungrazing comet on August 3-4, 2016

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Eleanor Imster