Sun-grazing Comets and Coronal Mass Ejections
The LASCO instrument on the SOHO spacecraft is able to image the
entire Sun and its local surroundings.
LASCO and its scientists have captured some impressive
events, including comets diving in and possibly
meeting their fate
in the solar furnace, as well as great eruptions of material (Coronal
Mass Ejections) from the limb of the Sun.
The video shows
the Sun between December 22 and December 27, 1996 featuring
a sun-grazing comet, a coronal mass ejection, and
the Sun moving in front of the galactic center.
The LASCO instrument covers up the Sun with a disk to avoid its
glare, hence generating an artificial eclipse (you can see the
disk in the video).
Scientists are also able to "subtract" the glare from the sun,
so you can actually see stars in the background!
Watch the movie carefully, and you will notice the Sun moving in
front of the constellation Sagittarius, which includes the
great cloud of stars toward the center of our Milky Way.
(Look for Sagittarius in the bottom half of the image.)
Near the beginning of the clip, a tiny comet will appear about
half-way to the lower
left of the screen, grow a short tail, and arc
into or behind (we don't know which) the Sun.
On the right side of the image, watch for the Coronal Mass Ejection,
a huge blob of material being blasted off the Sun. This one
wasn't headed for the Earth, though. (How can you tell?)
The many tiny streaks in the video are cosmic rays striking and
being recorded by the instrument.
There is also a close-up and compressed-in-time view
of the comet and CME in the previous video (477K).
This time, the comet is bold and dramatic!
SOHO has discovered many comets, 10 at last count.
The comet you see here has been named SOHO-6.