Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab talks us through a visualization of the comets that SOHO has witnessed. Since its launch nearly 20 years ago, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory has spotted 3000 comets.
The mission’s The Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) instrument blocks out the bright solar disk, making it easier to see the corona of plasma and dust around the Sun, normally only visible during solar eclipses. This instrument also provides a very large field of view of the region around the Sun.
This visualization utilizes SOHO data from 1998 – 2010 and shows over 2000 comets. Comets that were first observed by SOHO carry no labels, and comets witnessed by not discovered by the spacecraft are represented with their labels. Trails on the comets are color coded based on family: yellow – unaffiliated comets, red – Kreutz group, green – Meyer group, blue – Marsden, cyan – Kracht, and magenta – Kracht 2.