(ORDO NEWS) — On August 7, an unusual object flew past the Sun. “It was a triple comet,” says Carl Buttams of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, who created this animation using coronagraph images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
“Two main components are easy to spot, and a third, very faint, scattered piece, follows next to the leading element,” he says.
SOHO constantly finds comets. Most of them are the Kreutz solar graders, fragments of a giant comet that disintegrated more than 1,000 years ago. Since the observatory opened in 1995, SOHO has found that over 3,000 members of the Kreutz family have dived in the sun.
This is what makes this comet unusual. “This is not a member of the Kreutz family,” says Buttons. “Its orbit doesn’t match. We’re not sure where she is yet.”
“This object shows all the classic signs of a comet: scattered, elongated, has a tail and follows a path. in which the gravity of the sun clearly prevails.”
The triple comet is now moving away from the Sun and quickly disappears from view. The likelihood that large ground-based telescopes will be able to track it is small.
“This was probably the first and last passage of this comet past the Sun, since now it is probably completely disintegrated. But SOHO will continue to watch the Sun and wait for our next strange comet to appear.”
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