tech2 News StaffAug 19, 2019 16:37:20 IST
On 15 August, the orbital Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), operated jointly by the European Space Agency and NASA, captured a rare sighting: a comet, in the final moments of its nosedive into the sun.
The entire event was captured on video by SOHO researchers, where the comet (in a sea of objects visible in the distance) can be seen plummeting straight into the Sun. Also visible in the field of view are a glowing Venus just above the sun and a relatively dim Mars to the far left. Just a few seconds into the video, the sun-bound space rock becomes very apparent.
What happens next isn't visible in the video, but isn't too much of a surprise. The comet carried on, charging through the Sun's atmosphere, ultimately disintegrating into a pile of hot gas in the collision, according to Space.com. Game over.
The comet was probably a 'Kreutz sungrazer', according to a SpaceWeather report. Kreutz sungrazers are a family of sungrazing comets whose orbits bring them extremely close to the Sun. They are believed to be fragments of a large comet that broke up centuries ago, making their way from the region of the Canis Major constellation in the distant outer solar system to the inner solar system. Once they complete their curve around the Sun, they leave the inner Solar System in their return trip to the distant outer solar system again.
The SOHO spacecraft, launched in 1995, is a space-based observatory that observes and studies the Sun from its deep core, through its outer atmosphere (the corona) and solar wind, up to a distance ten times beyond the Earth's orbit. The discovery of sungrazers like the one spotted by SOHO can aid scientific studies of the sun.