Monday, January 4, 2010

The moment comet was eaten up after orbiting too close to the sun

By Scott Warren
Last updated at 1:42 AM on 05th January 2010

A comet has been captured by NASA being 'eaten' as it flies too close to the sun.
The space agency's solar-focused agency - Solar and Helioscopic Observatory (SOHO) - captured footage of the Kreutz Sungrazer as it made its fateful approach.
The footage has proven popular on YouTube and scientific and astronomical websites and blogs.

Scroll down to see video footage

Final approach: Clockwise from below left, the Kreutz comet enters the frame, makes its approach to the sun, then disappears with only its trail still visible
Final approach: Clockwise from below left, the Kreutz comet enters the frame, makes its approach to the sun, then disappears with only its trail still visible

Kreutz comet
kreutz comet
Caught on camera: The footage was recorded using a Coronagraph, which blocks out the brightest object in an image, enabling other activity to be viewed
Kreutz Sungrazers are characterised by orbits taking them extremely close to the Sun.
They are believed to be fragments of one large comet that broke up several centuries ago and are named after German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who first worked out that they were related.
A SOHO spokeswoman said the agency gathered the footage using a Coronagraph, which blocks the brightest object in an image.
This allows activity around the sun - such as the comet's approach - to be viewed.
It is known as a 'false eclipse' and displays the actual footage of the comet's final seconds, presented in a way that it can be seen by the naked eye.

Hundreds of Kreutz comets, some only a few metres in diameter, have been discovered since the launch of the SOHO satellite in 1995.

Like the comet captured in these images, none have survived the section of their orbit closest to the sun.
Experts say a new cluster of Kreutz comets will approach the sun over the next few decades, treating stargazers  to more spectacular shows.




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