UNDIVING COMET: A comet is diving into the sun today. Discovered just yesterday by amateur comet hunters Michal Kusiak of Poland and Sergei Schmalz of Germany, the icy visitor from the outer solar system is expected to brighten to first magnitude before it disintegrates during the late hours of Sept. 14th. Click to view an updated movie of the comet’s death plunge:
The doomed comet appears to be a member of 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. Several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a big fragment like this one attracts attention.