STEREO - Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory
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Important notice about STEREO Behind

Streaking Comet heads into Sun

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A bright comet headed right towards the Sun and disintegrated (Oct. 1, 2011) as observed by STEREO's suite of coronagraphs. It was a sungrazing comet of the type known as a Kreutz sungrazer and a particularly bright one at that. Most sungrazing comets have orbits that take them very close to the Sun without actually quite hitting it. However, getting so close almost always destroys these comets, so we see them going in, but not going back out. It appears that the coronal mass ejection seen blasting out into space began before the comet went behind the occulting disk in the COR1 images.

The question of whether a sungrazing comet can somehow trigger a coronal mass ejection is an intriguing one. So far, the feeling is that apparent relationship between some comets and some mass ejections is simply one of co-incidence. At this stage of the solar cycle, the Sun is producing many mass ejections--in fact there were several earlier in the day--and it probably just happened by chance that one of them was around the same time as the approach of the comet. Some researchers have been looking for a more direct relationship, but nothing as yet has come out of these efforts.

You can get more extensive information on Kruetz comets here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreutz_Sungrazers


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