Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2015 November 2

Comet ISON Being Destroyed by the Sun
Video Credit: NASA, ESA, SOHO

Explanation: Most comets don't survive a close encounter with the Sun. Two years ago this month, though, Comet ISON was thought by some to be big enough to withstand its perilous sungrazing dive. The featured video shows the drama as it was recorded by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite. As many Earthlings watched in fascination, a bright area did emerge from closest approach, but it soon faded and dispersed. It is now assumed that no large fragments of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) survived. Besides the comet, the active Sun is seen to eject puffs of plasma known as coronal mass ejections. Launched in 1995, sun-orbiting SOHO has become a historic device in the discovery and tracking of comets known as sungrazers. Two months ago, a comet designated SOHO 3000 was named in honor of the record 3000th comet that was discovered on SOHO images, a total that amounts to about half of all known comets.

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