An unusual comet skimmed past the Sun on Feb 18-21, 2015, as captured by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.
Most comets seen by SOHO belong to the Kreutz family — all of which broke off from a single giant comet many centuries ago.
Known as sungrazers, these comets usually evaporate in the intense sunlight. This comet made it to within 2.2 million miles of the Sun’s surface — but survived the trip intact.
“There’s a half-decent chance that ground observers might be able to detect it in the coming weeks,” said Karl Battams, a solar scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. “But it’s also possible that events during its trip around the sun will cause it to die fairly fast.”
Since launching in 1995, SOHO has become the number one comet finder of all time — this was comet discovery number 2,875. However, SOHO sees non-group comets like this only a few times a year.
Toward the end of the video, as the comet begins to develop a tail, the Sun releases an eruption of solar material, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, to add something more to the scene.