[A blue moon and lunar eclipse on New Year’s Eve, a meteor shower starting tonight, a solar eclipse on January 15th, and potentially a coment crashing into the sun today. Man, there’s a lot of things going on up there right now. Tony]
January 3, 2010
DISINTEGRATING COMET: A bright comet discovered by NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft is swinging by the sun today and apparently disintegrating. See the image below to observe the scene in motion:
It will be interesting to see if a disembodied tail emerges from behind the coronagraph’s occulting disk in the hours ahead.
This kamikaze comet is probably a member of the Kreutz sungrazer family. Named after a 19th century German astronomer who studied them in detail, Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a giant comet at least 2000 years ago. Several of these fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most are too small to see. Today’s fragment is a big exception.
Credit: The comet was found on Jan. 2nd by Australian amateur astronomer Alan Watson, who was inspecting images obtained by STEREO-A’s Heliospheric Imager on Dec. 30, 2009.
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