Feeds

Comet Lovejoy spotted plunging toward fiery doom

Space ice-lump to melt away above the far side of the Sun

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The comet Lovejoy has been snapped by ESA and NASA's SOHO spacecraft merrily continuing on its path to obliteration in the Earth's sun.

Comet Lovejoy plunging towards the Sun

Comet Lovejoy plunging towards the Sun. Credit: SOHO/LASCO (ESA/NASA)

Lovejoy, first spotted on December 2, is on a course to plunge destructively towards, but not quite into, the Sun later on today, as its icy body disintegrates in the Sun's heat.

The comet will pass around 140,000 km above the solar surface, where it will be unable to withstand the temperatures.

Comets are, as a rule, loosely collated collections of ice and rocks that are prone to disintegration at any time, but Lovejoy is making sure of its demise by throwing itself into the furnace of the Sun's heat.

The timely end of the comet will not be visible from Earth, because it will take place at the far side of our star.

Lovejoy comes from the Kreutz group of comets, believed to be the fragments of a much larger comet that broke up centuries ago.

Other Kreutz comets have had bright futures ahead of them, in fact, very bright, with comet Ikeya-Seki becoming so bright in 1965 that it was visible even in the daytime sky.

Poor Lovejoy will not reach these dizzy heights before its immolation, but it's still reckoned to be quite bright, and was actually first discovered by a ground-based telescope.

"On average, new Kreutz-group comets are discovered every few days by SOHO, but from the ground they are much rarer to see or discover,” said Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory. "This is the first ground-based discovery of a Kreutz-group comet in 40 years." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?