Watch Live as a Kreutz Sungrazing Comet Approaches the Sun
March 13, 2012
A few days ago Vladimir Bezugly noted a new comet in images taken with the SWAN instrument on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite. The comet was located within 20° of the Sun and appeared to be on a Kreutz sungrazing orbit that will take it within a few solar radii of the Sun’s surface. Unfortunately no ground-based observations were possible.
Luckily SOHO also is able to image the space close to the Sun with its LASCO instrument. This comet, currently undesignated but will probably be named Comet SWAN , is now visible in the LASCO C3 field.
To follow the action go to NASA’s SOHO site and view the latest LASCO C3 images at:
Karl Battams who is one of the world’s leading SOHO sungrazer specialists is sharing his thoughts on the comet as well. His site is highly recommended and a great source for up-to-date information about this comet.
The image below shows the comets position in the C3 field as of ~5 hr UT on March 14 (~10 pm on March 13 in Tucson).
Since this is the first small sungrazer to be seen in the SWAN data (even the Great Comet of 2011, Comet Lovejoy, asn’t detected by SWAN) there was some excitement that this comet could be as impressive as Comet Lovejoy. Now that we can see it in the C3 field it is obviously much fainter than Lovejoy. Why it was seen by SWAN is a bit of an unknown. Perhaps the comet experienced an outburst a few days back and has since returned to its normal level of activity or maybe this comet has a different composition than Lovejoy.
Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that this comet will survive perihelion. Then again we all said the same about Lovejoy and it was able to survive for another 4 days after perihelion which was long enough to make it a spectacular sight from the Southern Hemisphere.