by Eric Mack March 3, 2017 11:43 AM PST @ericcmack
Sun watchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory spotted a so-called "sungrazing comet" heading toward its imminent doom on Friday. The newly spotted comet doesn't yet have a name, and it might never get one as it may cease to exist very soon.
"This comet will not survive," NRL astrophysicist Karl Battams wrote on Twitter. "It'll vaporize loooong before it even nears the solar surface."
Sungrazers are exactly what they sound like: comets that pass very close to the sun on their trips through the inner solar system, often disintegrating in the process.
You can actually watch this new comet's final hours in near real time via NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). To use the interactive SOHO movie theater tool to follow the comet's suicidal path, just go to this link, choose "LASCO C3" in the "image type" field and "1024" for your resolution, and enter "10" under "latest n images." Then press search. You can also play around with different start and end dates if you're reading this long after March 3.
The resulting time-lapse shows the comet in the lower left flying towards the sun and oblivion. The sun is actually blocked out in the image by an occulter disk that's seen as a dark blue circle, which is what allows nearby objects to be seen by the observatory.
You can also see Mercury hanging out on the right. There's about a 12-minute gap between each frame.
Happy trails you brave space snowball, we barely knew you. Then again, maybe that's better as things don't often end up well when comets try to shake hands with the Earth.
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