Feeds

3-million-km-long comet plunges into Sun

'Deepest penetration yet' filmed in STEREOvision

New hybrid storage solutions

Boffins in California report that they have managed to track the course of an unusually resilient comet as it crashed deep into the Sun before finally being crisped.

"We believe this is the first time a comet has been tracked in 3-D space this low down in the solar corona," says Claire Raftery, a post-doctoral researcher at UC-Berkeley.

Raftery and her colleagues, fellow Berkeley postdocs Juan Carlos Martinez-Oliveros, Samuel Krucker and Pascal Saint-Hilaire, believe that the comet was one of the "Kreutz family", a swarm of comets - perhaps resulting from breakup of a single big one - knocked out of their previous path by Jupiter in 2004.

Hydrogen-alpha observations of the Sun's edge from the Coronado instrument of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory showing what the authors believe to be the comet approaching the solar limb.

Hot comet plunge action.

The boffins managed to track one in particular, boasting a tail no less than three million km long, as it plunged down in a final death dive into the Sun. This was done using NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) system. STEREO is a pair of observer spacecraft in orbit round the Sun, one ahead of Earth and one behind.

The STEREO track gave enough information to work out where the comet would crash into the Sun to within 1,000km or so. Raftery and her scientific chums then checked data from that area which had been scooped by the Corona instrument at the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in Hawaii. Sure enough, these showed an object approaching the edge of the Sun at the right place and time.

According to the data, the boffins think that the comet actually survived a surprisingly long time, penetrating the solar corona and disappearing in the 100,000-degree heat of the chromosphere.

The four presented their research at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami last night. Comet-chasing isn't their usual work - seemingly it's more of a sideline.

“It was supposed to be an exercise, but it took over our lives,” says Raftery. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.