Video: Comet Caught Crashing into the Sun

By Andrew Moseman | May 25, 2010 9:43 am

Its doom was sealed six years ago.

In 2004, UC Berkeley researchers say, this comet was tugged by Jupiter’s gravity into a path bound for destruction in the cauldron of the sun. And when its end finally came this March, astronomers captured the comet plunging deep into the sun on video (see below), watching it go farther into the light than any suicide comet seen before.

Seeing comets and other small objects approach the sun is difficult because the objects are overwhelmed by the sun’s brightness. Scientists were able to track this one closer to the sun than ever, before it it burned up in the sun’s lower atmosphere [].

The team watched the comet with NASA’s STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory), launched in 2006 and using satellites on opposites sides of the planet to survey the sun in 3D. The comet plunged through the corona and was tough enough to survive until it crossed into the chromosphere and met its final end.

Based on the comet’s relatively short tail, about 1.9 million miles long, the researchers believe that the comet contained heavier elements that do not evaporate readily. This would also explain how it penetrated so deeply into the chromosphere, surviving the strong solar wind as well as the extreme temperatures, before evaporating [Daily Mail].

The astronomers think this now-deceased comet was a Kreutz sungrazer. This is a group of comets that are the remnants of a single large comet that broke up, and periodically they graze too close for comfort and make death dives into the sun. The teams presented the findings yesterday at the American Astronomical Meeting in Miami.

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Related Content:
DISCOVER: Seeing Sun Storms in Stereo
80beats: Spacecraft-Collected Comet Dust Reveals Surprises from the Solar System’s Boondocks
80beats: Dust Collected From Comet Contains a Key Ingredient For Life
Bad Astronomy: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Comets

Image: NASA

  • Joseph Smidt

    Wow, thanks for alerting me to this cool video.

  • Cassandra

    are the two subsequent plumes of ejected material related to the impact of the comet?

  • Terrance

    Totally unrelated. Comets are far far too small to cause the “plumes”. …unrelated Solar activity caused them.

  • Nikki

    I would like to see some sort of scientific data to explain the solar activity. This is very interesting.

  • Pamela

    nikki, you should start following sdo(solar dynamics observatory) gathered data releases. brix will be shat.

  • Mitch

    Sorry if it’s mentioned here and I just didn’t see it, but what are the other objects that we see here that are traversing the sun’s orbit? I haven’t been able to find it again but recently saw it mentioned that there was a planetoid in the sun’s corona on the far side that we never see. Is that even possible?

  • vempire

    i want to know which kind of event will be happen in now; in the case of comet crashing into the sun.Such as, global warmly than before or can be exert upon on Ozone layer by destroying elements that combined gases in Ozone layer.
    Please let me know.

  • Anonymous

    why does the sun look like its breathing?

  • louisvuitton78

    whoah this blog is magnificent i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You know, lots of people are looking around for this info, you could help them greatly.


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