DOOMED COMET: The sun is about to swallow a comet. The doomed sungrazer appeared earlier today in images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
“This is one of the brightest Kreutz sungrazers we’ve seen over the past 21 yrs,” says Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. “Awesome! ”
Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate almost every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one attracts attention.
The comet is vaporizing furiously and is not expected to survive much longer. Monitor the SOHO realtime images page for developments.