PICK OF THE WEEK
 
Pick of The Week
 
 

Good-bye, Streaking Comet (October 3, 2011)


Hi-res TIF image (1.9M)


Hi-res TIF image (2.8M)

C2 Movies
Quicktime: Large (3.1M), Small (492K).
MPEG: Large (5.2M), Small (2.0M)

C3 Movies
Quicktime: Large ( 18M), Small (4.7M).
MPEG: Large (5.8M), Small (2.2M)

STEREO Behind Movies
Quicktime: Large (6.8M), Small (1.6M).
MPEG: Large (5.7M), Small (5.6M)

A bright comet headed right towards the Sun and disintegrated (Oct. 2, 2011). It was a sungrazing comet of the type known as a Kreutz sungrazer and a particularly bright one at that. There is not a definitive orbit calculated for it yet, but most sungrazing comets have orbits that take them very close to the Sun without actually quite hitting it. However, getting so close almost always destroys these comets, so we see them going in, but not going back out.

The bright object above and to the left of the Sun in the LASCO C3 (blue) still and video clip is the planet Mercury.

The question of whether a sungrazing comet can somehow trigger a coronal mass ejection is an intriguing one. So far, the feeling is that apparent relationship between some comets and some mass ejections is simply one of co-incidence. At this stage of the solar cycle, the Sun is producing many mass ejections--in fact there were several earlier in the day--and it probably just happened by chance that one of them was around the same time as the approach of the comet. Some researchers have been looking for a more direct relationship, but nothing as yet has come out of these efforts.

For more details and an excellent, critical analysis of this event see Big comet, big CME... big coincidence? by Karl Battams, who also runs the Sungrazer Comet Project.

For more information on Kreutz comets see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreutz_Sungrazers

 

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