The NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) caught a spectacular view early this morning, spying not only a small comet making a death-dive into the Sun, but also an immense coronal mass ejection being blown off into space.
As you can see in the video, the comet comes in from the lower right. Depending on how you look at it, it almost seems like either the comet sets off the massive 'full-halo' coronal mass ejection that we see, or the massive CME destroys the comet. However, the comet and the CME are actually on completely different sides of the Sun, so they never interact.
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The comet was part of a family of hundreds known as the Kreutz Sungrazers. They were all part of one huge comet that broke up hundreds of years ago, and they all make exceptionally close approaches to the Sun. Only two members of this family have been seen to survive their dive — the Great Comet of 1843, and Comet Lovejoy in 2011, both due to their larger size.
Comet ISON is the next big comet to go sungrazing. It should make its closest pass on October 28th of this year, and if it manages to survive the death-defying act, it should provide us with a spectacular show for the winter.
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