SUNDIVING COMET DESTROYED: The solar system now has one less comet. Earlier today, a sundiving comet discovered on Sept. 15th by Worachate Boonplod, a science writer from Thailand, passed too close to the sun and apparently evaporated. A coronagraph onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded the death plunge:
One comet went in, no comets came out. Fierce heat from the sun likely evaporated the comet’s fragile ices, transforming it into a disintegrated cloud of gas and dust.
Sundiving comets are more common than you might think. SOHO has found more than 3000 of them. Most are members 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. Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate almost every day. Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one attracts attention.