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A Doomed Comet Just Fell Into the Sun. Here's the Video.

Yesterday (Aug. 15), the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) watched a comet meet its demise as the dirty snowball dove directly into the sun, according to Space Weather astronomer Tony Phillips.

In the video captured by SOHO, you can see a number of objects zooming around the sun, which is blocked by an opaque disk to reduce glare. Seemingly right on top of the sun is Venus, which is bright and easy to spot. Left of center and not quite as bright as Venus, you can also see Mars. Just about 10 seconds into the video, the sun-bound comet suddenly becomes obvious and easy to detect. 

Staying on course, the comet continues to head directly for the sun, where it is charges through the sun's atmosphere and is ultimately destroyed (though, of course, you can't see that in the video). This comet is most likely a Kreutz sungrazer, according to Phillips. 

Related: Gallery: Incredible Photos of Comet ISON

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) observed a comet dive directly into the sun on Aug. 15, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA/ESO/SOHO)

Kreutz sungrazers are an interesting group of comets as there is no official definition for them. They have been observed for hundreds of years and were studied by Heinrich Kreutz in the 1880's and 1890's. These comets are thought to be fragments derived from a giant, ancient comet.

Citizen scientists discovered this pair of comets, a sungrazer and a sunskirter, on June 20, 2019.  (Image credit: NASA/ESO/SOHO)

This is not the first comet that SOHO spotted this summer. On June 20, 2019, two comets, one a Kreutz sungrazer and the other a Meyer sunskirter — comets that don't get quite as close to the sun as sungrazers — were identified. Citizen scientists detected the pair of comets using data from SOHO and NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft missions as part of the Sungrazer Project

Incredibly, over half of all known comets have so far been discovered by the Sungrazer Project, according to the project website. Discoveries of new comets can help scientists to study comet orbits, comet composition comet evolution and more. The discovery of sungrazers like the one spotted in this video can additionally support scientific studies of the sun. 

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Chelsea Gohd

Chelsea Gohd joined as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History and even wrote an installation for the museum's permanent Hall of Meteorites. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music and performing as her alter ego Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.