Fatal Attraction

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This video from SOHO spanning several days’ worth of time shows the activity of the Sun’s corona as stellar energy is streamed out into space against a passing background field of stars…and then right in the final moments we see it: the bright trail of a comet as it makes its final journey straight into the star it has most likely been orbiting for over four and a half billion years.

Actually, this is nothing new. ESA’s SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite, its many cameras permanently aimed at the Sun, has identified almost 2000 comets and comet fragments as they dive into the stellar furnace. Many of these are fragments from a larger comet that broke apart hundreds of years ago. The one shown above may or may not be a piece from that same family…if it is, it’s definitely one of the larger fragments!

And it wasn’t alone in its final moments either…this wider-angle view shows smaller comet fragments in front and behind it as well. (The bright objects on the bottom right are planets, probably Venus and Mercury.)


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