On Friday, Aug.28th, the sun swallowed a comet. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spotted the icy visitor from the outer solar system making a headlong plunge into our star. One comet went in; none came out. Click to play the movie:
Heated by the sun at point blankrange, the comet’s fragile ices vaporized, leaving at most a “rubble pile” of rock and gravel scattered along its sungrazing orbit. Any remains are invisible from Earth.
The comet, R.I.P., was probably a member of the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one (~10 m to 50 m) attracts attention.
© Screen Capture Youtube
Because of their common parentage, sungrazers often come in clusters. For this reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to find yet another one in the offing. Monitor Karl Battam’s Sungrazing Comet twitter feed for more sightings.