323P/SOHO, a near-Sun comet, should have taken an orbit from Greek mythology. During a close encounter with the Sun, scientists were able to monitor the elusive rocky space object, and it did not bode well for the comet.
Near-Sun comets can be difficult to see and track. They have peculiar orbits that put them on a collision course with the Sun. Astronomers are still puzzled why they don’t observe more of these objects. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, or NAOJ, said in a statement Wednesday that “this is the first time such a comet has been observed in the act of disintegration and could help explain the lack of such periodic near-Sun comets.” could.”
A team of astronomers used data from several telescopes to find 323P/SOHO and follow its adventures. They observed it using the ground-based Subaru Telescope in Hawaii (operated by NAOJ) and were able to dial in its orbit based on that data. Other telescopes stepped in to track the comet as it began to move away from the Sun.
There was a big difference between comets before and after meeting the Sun. It seemed like a point when Subaru saw it in December 2020. Observations from early 2021 showed that it had developed a long dusty tail.
The team published their findings this week in The Astronomical Journal and described the tail as “mimicking a disintegrating comet.” As the NAOJ put it, it’s a “roasted death.”
“Researchers believe that intense radiation from the Sun breaks up parts of comets by causing thermal fracturing, similar to how ice cubes explode when you pour a hot drink on them,” says NAOJ he said. “This mass loss mechanism may help explain what happens to near-Sun comets and why so few of them are left.”
Near-Sun comet 323P/SOHO has proven to be an oddball. It is an unusual color “unlike anything else in the Solar System” and it spins very rapidly. Now astronomers want to know whether other near-Sun comets share these traits. The ability to find and track 323P/SOHO bodes well for finding more of these elusive objects.
- Like Space Icarus, a rare comet close to the Sun was a ‘roasted death’
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