Unusual Comet Survives a Fiery Plunge

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Click here to view an animated image sequence of the comets trip around the sun.

Astronomers using NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are puzzling over a new comet that recently made a dive towards the sun and lived. According to recent observations the comet appears to be getting brighter as it heads earthwards, possibly turning into a treat for amateur observers in the coming month.

From Spaceweather.com

Unofficially, the icy visitor is being called “SOHO-2875,” because it is SOHO’s 2,875th comet discovery.

Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab explains what’s odd about SOHO-2875: “It’s a ‘non-group comet,’ meaning that it does not appear to be related to any other comet or comet family that we have on record.”

Most comets that SOHO sees belong to the Kreutz family. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a single giant comet many centuries ago. They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them in detail. SOHO-2875, however, is not one of those fragments.

“Non-group comets like this appear a few times a year, so in that sense it’s not too unusual,” continues Battams. “But this one is relatively bright. The big question most people will have now is, Can I see it, or will I be able to see it, from Earth? At first I thought the answer was no. But I am very pleasantly surprised–shocked in fact! The comet has brightened dramatically and now is sporting an increasingly impressive tail. Visibility from Earth in a few weeks is no longer out of the question, although I still wouldn’t put money on it.”

For updates please visit Karl’s twitter feed: twitter.com/SungrazerComets

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