NASA observes comet plunging into the sun

NASA’s Solar and Helioscopic Observatory (SOHO) has captured footage of a comet being swallowed by the sun.

The comet belongs to the  Kreutz family of comets, named for the German astronomer  Heinrich Kreutz. They are believed to have broken off from a much larger comet centuries ago, and orbit close to the Sun.

The comet was one of the brightest sungrazing comets that SOHO has observed in its 14 years of operation.  NASA has a video demonstrating the phenomenon, here.

The comet was discovered over the weekend by Australian amateur astronomer Alan Watson, who was inspecting images obtained on December 30.

The images use a ‘false eclipse’ technique to screen out the sun and allow the comet to be seen.

Hundreds of Kreutz comets, of all shapes and sizes, have been discovered since the launch of the SOHO satellite. All have suffered the same fiery fate. Another cluster is beleived to be on its way and is expected to arrive in a few years.