SOHO Observes Comet (January 27, 2003)
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Comet C/2002 X5 (Kudo-Fujikawa) is passing by the Sun and is just now
visible in the SOHO/LASCO images that are available on the Web.
On Jan. 29th, it will be only 0.19 AU from the Sun. 1 Astronomical Unit is the the mean distance of Earth from the Sun which is approximately 150 million km. The intense bright light from our star will make it impossible to view the close encounter from the Earth. However, SOHO is able to block the Sun's glare using onboard coronagraphs. Thus, everyone with an Internet connection can follow the comet in the SOHO while it is approaching the Sun, passing it and then moving out in space again. The comet will remain visible in the SOHO/LASCO images until ~14 UT Friday Jan 31. The comet is also now clearly visible in the C2 images beginning on January 27th at 22:23.
Kudo-Fujikawa is passing inside the orbit of Mercury, the innermost planet. On Wednesday it will make its closest approach, about 17.7 million miles (28.4 million kilometers) from the Sun, before starting its swing back out through the solar system,beyond Earth. Many comets carve such highly elliptical paths on orbits that can take anywhere from a few years to a few hundred years to complete. See: http://science.nasa.gov/spaceweather/ for a comet orbit map.
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 email@example.com.