A new comet has been discovered by the SOHO team, and it — like Lovejoy before it, almost three months to the day — is headed directly toward the Sun. Discovered by SOHO’s SWAN instrument, the comet has been dubbed Comet SWAN… making this a real swan dive (or, perhaps more appropriately, its swan song.)
The animation above has a lot of random noise in it from recent solar outbursts… can you spot the comet? If not, read on…
There’s Comet SWAN, just above the darker silhouette of the bar that holds the shielding disk over the center of the imager (which blocks the glare from the Sun itself.)
The comet is likely another member of the Kreutz family of comets, an extended family of pieces that broke off a larger comet several hundred years ago (which itself may have been a survivor of a breakup in 371 B.C.!) Comet Lovejoy was also a Kretuz sungrazer but it was considerably larger and brighter, which may have helped it survive its Dec. 15 solar close encounter to re-emerge on the opposite side, surprising astronomers everywhere!
SWAN may not be so lucky… but then again, we’ve been surprised before!
The comet will make perihelion — its closest approach to the Sun — on March 14. Stay tuned for more details!
Images via SpaceWeather.com.