The comet swooped in on one side of the sun, and never emerged on the other side.
Once it was there, streaking through space with a spectacular tail behind it, and now it’s gone — a comet has committed suicide into our sun, and it was all captured by the Solar and heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The satellite, which has spent 20 years watching our star, captured the comet Aug. 1 speeding at 1.3 million miles per hour before disappearing around the right side of the sun and never emerging on the other side.
The comet likely originated from a group of comets called the Kreutz group that may have broken off a larger comet many centuries ago. Now, those comets fly on a highly elliptical orbit that takes them from near the sun to the extreme edge of our solar system — as far as Pluto, in fact.
SOHO has been doing lots of good work ever since it was launched back in 1995. Back then, it was only intended to operate for two years to study the sun’s internal structure, but here it is more than two decades later.
The statement is below:
ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, saw a bright comet plunge toward the sun on Aug. 3-4, 2016, at nearly 1.3 million miles per hour. Comets are chunks of ice and dust that orbit the sun, usually on highly elliptical orbits that carry them far beyond the orbit of Pluto at their farthest points. This comet, first spotted by SOHO on Aug. 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.
This comet didn’t fall into the sun, but rather whipped around it – or at least, it would have if it had survived its journey. Like most sungrazing comets, this comet was torn apart and vaporized by the intense forces near the sun.
The disk of the sun is represented by the white circle in this image.