Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comet Storm of December 2010

This is way cool: over ten days in December, 25 comet fragments dove into the sun, the most dramatic concentration yet seen by the SOHO cameras, which provide unprecedented images of the sun and its immediate vicinity. Some astronomers wonder if this may herald a truly dramatic sungrazer, perhaps on par with the incredible Comet Ikeya-Seki (left), which was visible even in daylight in 1965.

This article from NASA fills in the details. Brian Marsden, well-known in comet-watching circles (and who passed away last year) was the first to realize that Ikeya-Seki and many other sun-grazers and comets like the recent small ones that dove into the sun, were all part of one family of comets, likely fragments of the famous Great Comet of 1106, the earliest comet to show up in historical accounts.



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