Whether you saw the total solar eclipse of December 14th in person, online, or in pictures afterwards, you probably haven’t noticed a bonus celestial object that appears subtle. At the same time, a newly discovered comet was approaching the sun.
Thai amateur astronomer Worachate Boonplod was the first to find the comet thanks to NASA’s Citizen Science Project Sungrazer. The project challenges people to discover new comets in observations from NASA and the solar and heliosphere observatory of the European Space Agency (SOHO).
The comet named C / 2020 X3 (SOHO) was a Kreutz-Sungrazer, one of a group of comets that have a common origin and are fragments of a former comet. “To date, 4,108 comets have been detected in SOHO images, with this comet being the 3,524th Kreutz sunburner discovered,” NASA said in a statement last week.
As far as is known, no comet has ever been seen to touch the sun’s surface or the photosphere, according to the European Space Agency.
The Kreutz-Suningers are located about 50,000 kilometers from the surface and simply pass through the lower regions of the solar atmosphere (the corona). Most often evaporate in the hot solar atmosphere.