Kamikaze Comet (October 22, 2010)
Hi-res TIF image (3.0M)
SOHO watched as a comet appeared to head right for the Sun (Oct. 19-21, 2010). The comet, composed of ice and dust, must have disintegrated as it got very close to the heat and pressure of the Sun. The sungrazer was discovered by a Chinese comet hunter, Bo Zhou, on Oct. 19th in the SOHO coronagraph images. In these images the Sun (represented by the white circle) is blocked by a occulting disk so that the fainter features around it can be seen Over 1900 comets have been discovered in SOHO observations, and there is currently a (contest for people to guess when it will discover its 2000th comet).
Hi-res TIF image (1.5M)
Quicktime Movie: Large (1.3M)
The comet is likely 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 are thought to pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most are too small to see, but occasionally a big fragment like this one attracts attention.
SOHO began its Weekly Pick some time after sending a weekly image or video clip to the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) in New York City. There, the SOHO Weekly Pick is displayed with some annotations on a large plasma display.
If your institution would also like to receive the same Weekly Pick from us for display (usually in Photoshop or QuickTime format), please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.