More on SoHO, the Sun and comet death

Following the alert I relayed onto you all with an earlier blog post on the comet that was in view of the LASCO C2 camera of the Sun watching SoHO satellite and about to get a bit warmer, a few new snippets have come to light.

Firstly, you can grab a movie off any SoHO camera by specifying start and end dates in this website here. The result is rather like the one shown on the website, showing the comet death, which is below:

Secondly, the comet is likely to be a Kreutz family sungrazing comet. This group is believed to be the remains of a ‘supercomet’ that broke up under the influence of the Sun’s gravity and keeps heading back for more, rather like an extended version of the Shoemaker Levy-9 comet collision with Jupiter. The thing is, we normally see big bits from this family hitting three or four times a year. This comet was the third big one in 2010.

Now onto general things. If you observe the LASCO C2 data, you’ll see all kinds of small comets flying through. The ability to see these and the ability for members of the public to identify them has left a kind of citizen science project going on where people try to spot undiscovered comets in LASCO data. It happens with other solar telescopes too.

But comets aren’t the only thing to see on the surface of the Sun. Simple projection allows us to see sunspots (though not today, sadly), put in filters and there are filaments and prominences to view. Use two separated spacecraft, call it the STEREO mission and flow the data through a citizen science project allowing people to spot disturbances on the solar surface and you have Solar Storm Watch.

One disturbance, a Coronal Mass Ejection, has been spotted heading for Earth and it is expected to produce higher than average auroral activity, so keep an eye on those aurora alerts (such as twitter or email ones).

…which is a very appropriate post for today as it is the “Sun Day” of Global Astronomy Month.


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