Comet Swan Dives into the Sun
BRIGHT COMET DIVES INTO RADIATION STORM: A bright comet is diving into the sun. It was discovered just last week by SOHO’s SWAN instrument, so it has been named “Comet SWAN.” The comet’s death plunge ( or “swan dive”) comes just as the sun has unleashed a strong flare and radiation storm around Earth. SOHO images of the comet are confused to some degree by energetic protons striking the camera. Nevertheless, you can see Comet SWAN moving through the electronic “snow” in this updated 17 hour movie:
This is a Kreutz sungrazer, a fragment of the same ancient comet that produced sungrazing Comet Lovejoy in Dec. 2011. According to comet expert Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC, “Comet SWAN is one of the brightest Kreutz-group comets ever observed by SOHO, although not quite as bright as Comet Lovejoy.” Battams forecasts a peak magnitude of -1 for Comet SWAN, while Lovejoy was three magnitudes brighter at -4.
Will Comet SWAN survive its plunge through the sun’s atmosphere as Comet Lovejoy did? Probably not, but experts also said Comet Lovejoy would not survive, and they were happily wrong. Comet’s SWAN’s closest approach to the sun will likely come on March 14th.