Comets that graze the sun used to be hard to spot, but now we have seen thousands.
As comets orbit the sun, many come too close and evaporate completely. Others survive the journey, but their orbits gradually move closer to the sun. Ultimately, the heat of the solar atmosphere melts the ice that binds a comet together and breaks it apart into smaller bodies that follow similar orbits. These are the sungrazers, and scientists and amateur astronomers are seeing more of them than ever. As of 1979, we only knew of a dozen. Nearing the end of 2012, thanks to better observation tools, we have now seen 3,000. The bulk of the sungrazers are known as Kreutz comets, and are likely derived from a single original comet observed as early as 371 AD. Watch the videos to learn more about and see NASA satellite footage of sungrazing comets.
Please give credit for this item to: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Comet Lovejoy cover image courtesy of ESA/NASA's SOHO mission Comet Lovejoy footage courtesy of ESA/NASA's SOHO and NASA's STEREO missions Comet Lovejoy image couretsy of JAXA/NASA Hinode mission
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