An unusual comet that some call a ‘super comet, due to it passing by the Sun unscathed, is heading towards the Earth and it will be unlike any comet we’ve ever seen before according to scientists.
The Daily Mail report:
Nasa and the European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, also called SOHO, spotted the comet as it skimmed past the sun.
The is not thought to belong to any known family of comets and scientists have been left baffled as to how it survived its close encounter with the sun.
The comet raced past the star at the centre of our solar system at a distance of just 2.2 million miles from the sun’s surface.
Most comets that come that close do not survive the trip, according to solar scientists who study images beamed back by SOHO.
Yet this comet managed to survive, said Dr Karl Battams, a solar scientist at the Naval Reearch Laboratory in Washington DC.
However, he warned the close encounter with the sun may have taken its toll.
He said: ‘There’s a half-decent chance that ground observers might be able to detect it in the coming weeks.
‘But it’s also possible that events during its trip around the sun will cause it to die fairly fast.’
Scientists are now attempting to calculate the path the new comet.
SOHO was initally designed to study the internal structure of the sun and the huge explosions that send the solar wind racing across the solar system.
However, it has also become a major source of comet discoveries as these giant balls of ice and rock light up as they encounter the intense streams of ionized gas that is thrown out by the sun.
Now SOHO has discovered 2,875 comets.
Most belong to the Kreutz family, which all broke off from a single giant comet many centuries ago.
This latest comet, however, does not bear any resemblance to these other comets nor any other family known. Such non-group comets only occur a few times a year.
In a video released by Nasa the comet can be seen appearing on Febuary 19 and taking a huge curving path away from the sun.
Towards the end of the video, as the comet begins to develop a tail, a coronal mass ejection from the sun throws huge amonts of solar material into space.