Kreutz comet disintegrates as it travels towards sun

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On May 10, a huge comet was making its way past the Sun when it got sucked in. NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite spotted the phenomenon. A video from SOHO shows a bright object plunging into the Sun before it disappears forever.

The comet in question is known as a Kreutz sungrazer comet.

These are comets that were part of a larger body that broke up at least 1,000 years ago and, as the name suggests, hover near the surface of the Sun.

Thousands of these comets have been discovered, but most end up being swallowed by the Sun. The most recent one was no different.

Space Weather said: “Yesterday, May 10, the Sun swallowed a comet.

“SOHO coronagraphs spotted the dirty snowball making a headlong plunge into our star. One comet went in; none came out.

“They get their name from 19th century German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who studied them.”

“Every day, several Kreutz fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate.

“Most, measuring less than a few meters across, are too small to see, but occasionally a bigger fragment like this one (~10 to 30 meters wide) attracts attention.

“The dusty remains of this comet have mostly disintegrated into individual atoms, and are now being blown back into the Solar System by the solar wind. R.I.P. sungrazer.”

Astronomer Karl Battams spent some time analysing the most recent comet plunge.

He said the comet was likely “tens of metres” in diameter.

Dr Battams wrote on Twitter: “It’s REALLY rare that we see saturation spikes this big on incoming sungrazers.

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“This was probably a fairly substantial comet by SOHO standards.

“Alas, that doesn’t change the outcome, and just four hours later there was nothing but a dusty rubble pile remaining.

“Shortly thereafter, these dusty remains will have rapidly been stripped down to their individual constituent atoms and mostly blown away in the solar wind.”

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