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Sungrazing Comets

Sungrazing Comets:

A tiny “sungrazer” comet was discovered during the recent total solar eclipse.

  • Sungrazing Comets are a special class of comets that come very close to the sun at their nearest approach, a point called perihelion.
  • To be considered a sungrazer, a comet needs to get within about 850,000 miles from the sun at perihelion. Many come even closer, even to within a few thousand miles.
  • Being so close to the sun is very hard on comets for many reasons.
  • They are subjected to a lot of solar radiation, which boils off their water or other volatiles.
  • The physical push of the radiation and the solar wind also helps form the tails.
  • As they get closer to the sun, the comets experience extremely strong tidal forces or gravitational stress.
  • In this hostile environment, many sungrazers do not survive their trip around the sun.
  • Most usually evaporate in the hot solar atmosphere.
  • Most of the sungrazing comets observed follow a similar orbit, called the Kreutz Path, a single orbit that takes 800 years to complete.
  • They collectively belong to a population called the Kreutz Group.
  • These Kreutz comets are fragments of a single large comet that was shattered thousands of years ago.
  • The far end of the Kreutz path lies 160 times farther from the sun than the orbit of Earth.