Suicide Comets (March 15, 2010)
Hi-res TIF image (2.4M)
The SOHO spacecraft captured a very bright, sungrazing comet as it rocketed towards the Sun (Mar. 12, 2010) and was vaporized. This comet is arguably the brightest comet that SOHO has observed since Comet McNaught in early 2007. The comet is believed to belong to the Kreutz family of comets that broke up from a much larger comet many hundreds of years ago. They are known to orbit close to the Sun. A coronal mass ejection (CME) burst away from the Sun during the bright comet’s approach.
Hi-res TIF image (2.1M)
Interestingly, a much smaller comet that preceded this one can be seen about half a day earlier on just about the identical route. And another pair of small comets followed the same track into the Sun after the bright one. Such a string of comets has never been witnessed before by SOHO. SOHO's C3 coronagraph instrument blocks out the Sun with an occulting disk; the white circle represents the size of the Sun. The planet Mercury can also be seen moving from right to left just beneath the Sun.
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.