Goodbye little comet, we barely knew you. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, observed a comet over the weekend getting brighter as it approached closer and closer to the Sun – until the heat was too much and the comet was destroyed. Shared online by solar physicist Dr Keith Strong, the comet was less a sungrazer and more of a "sun diver".
There are a lot of comets that pass very close to the Sun. SOHO alone has discovered over 4,000. However, to survive the heat of our star at the perihelion – the closest point to the Sun – you require bulk. A comet can survive it, but its mass would be massively reduced. The effects can also make the comet bright enough to be visible to the naked eye from Earth.
The origin of most of these sungrazers is to be found in one of the bright Great comets. It was broken apart in its first passage of the solar system, believed to be the one witnessed in 371 BC by Aristotle and Ephorus. Several great comets of the last two centuries are fragments of this larger object. They are known as Kreutz sungrazers, and based on SOHO observations, none of the smaller fragments have survived the perihelion passage.
If the destruction of the comet wasn’t enough, you can see a Coronal Mass Ejection from the opposite side of the Sun. Our star is going towards its maximum and it is ramping up its activity.