On Thursday, NASA watched as a “sungrazer comet” sailed through space on a self-destructive collision course with the Sun.
Unfortunately, the poor fella didn’t survive its close encounter, CNET reports. Perhaps that’s not all that surprising for anything hurtling toward the Sun, but astronomers did get some fascinating footage as they watched the comet break apart in real-time.
Comet approaching the Sun (from southwest, or lower right), while slow CMEs were in progress on both the east and west limbs. The comet must have overlapped with the solar disk by now if it had survived. pic.twitter.com/DH1ftnycr7
— Halo CME (@halocme) August 27, 2020
Rest In Peace
NASA and the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) spotted the comet after it let out a bright flash of light on its approach. Sungrazer comets are fairly common, CNET reports, but it’s unusual for them to announce themselves with such dramatic flair. Unfortunately, this one’s journey is already over.
“This is not survivable for a little comet,” NASA and NRL researcher Karl Battams wrote in a tweet about the comet’s trajectory.
Our bright SOHO sungrazer is still looking as healthy as can be hoped! [📷: https://t.co/0lbmyfPeHV]
Perihelion looks like it'll be 2020-08-27 ~15:58UT, at about 0.0067au (~~1.5 solar radii). This is not survivable for a little comet. ☀️☄️ pic.twitter.com/4ftuTFdOtn
— Karl Battams (@SungrazerComets) August 26, 2020
Even aside from its final destination, the scientists observing the comet could tell it was doomed by looking at its tail.
In another tweet, Battams pointed out that the comet didn’t have a regular tail. Instead, it was leaving a trail of debris and boulders behind as it rapidly broke apart on its journey. Needless to say, we’ll be pouring one out.
That tail is not your typical comet tail – it's more of a boulder-strewn debris trail. The comet is being entirely deconstructed by solar radiation in our solar system's most hostile environment! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/OYeXvQBoiK
— Karl Battams (@SungrazerComets) August 27, 2020
READ MORE: Bright comet caught recklessly racing toward the sun [CNET]
More on comets: Here Are The Most Amazing Shots of the NEOWISE Comet