Gravity: hard to call home with it and inconceivable to assume the universe without it. A comet got caught at the hot end of this punchline on the weekend once the cosmic snowball was captured careening in to the sun early Sunday by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
“The doomed comet was probably a ‘Kreutz sungrazer,‘ a fragment from the giant comet that broke apart many centuries ago,” astronomer Tony Phillips wrote for Spaceweather.com. “A swarm of the fragments orbits sunlight, and each day a minumum of one gets too close and disintegrates. Most, measuring significantly less than several meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a large one like today’s attracts attention.”
The below GIF comprises of numerous images from SOHO captured late Saturday and early Sunday. You can observe the tiny comet struggling to resist the intense gravitational pull of our star in the low right quadrant. Because the clock turns to Sunday, it could be seen disappearing in to the disc of sunlight, that is blocked by SOHO’s coronagraph to avoid harm to the instrument.
Since nothing happens another side of sunlight, it’s fair to assume this sungrazer was fully vaporized by the intense heat.
The animation also has an interesting snapshot of precisely how tumultuous sunlight is at this time since it approaches a peak in sunspot activity sometime between now and 2025: an apparent coronal mass ejection is seen erupting from another side of sunlight because the comet is racing to its demise.
Most comets are believed to result from the outer edges of our solar system in a cold, dark region referred to as the Oort cloud. Most are on lengthy orbital paths that bring them through the inner solar system and nearer to us only one time every few decades, centuries as well as longer.
But this specific unnamed comet has made its final stop by at our neighborhood. Rest in (obliterated) pieces, buddy.