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A Comet Devoured by the Sun




The STEREO (Ahead) spacecraft captured a sungrazing comet as it approached the Sun (Jan. 2-3, 2010) and evaporated. Note how the comet brightens and lengthens as it approaches the Sun, evidence of its deterioration. The comet is believed to belong to the Kreutz family of comets formed from the break up of a much larger comet many hundreds of years ago. They are known to orbit close to the Sun. This coronagraph is an instrument which blocks out the Sun with an occulting disk (black) so that we can see the Sun's faint outer atmosphere, the corona; the white circle represents the size and location of the Sun. The comet was discovered on Jan. 2nd by Australian amateur astronomer Alan Watson, who was inspecting images obtained by STEREO-A's Heliospheric Imager on Dec. 30, 2009. The SOHO spacecraft also has images and movies of this same comet here:

The HI-1A movie of the Kreutz comet, listed below, from January 2, 2010 was created by the finder himself, Alan Watson, who processed the STEREO HI-1 images before cropping and rotating them to make the sequence. It shows the comet in the SECCHI HI-1A images dramatically increasing in brightness as it nears the Sun. At the same time, it grows a beautiful long tail that starts to suffer the consequences of being buffeted by solar outflow.

Last Revised: March 19, 2018 15:00:39 UTC
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