A sungrazer comet (technically known as Kreutz sungrazers) crashed into the sun on August 4, 2016, and luckily for us, the entire event was captured on video by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Analysis of the video shows the comet plunged into the sun at a mind-boggling 373 miles per second! That’s 1.34 million miles per hour! At that speed, you could drive completely around the earth in about a minute.
Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of larger comets, called Kreutz comets, which have broken apart as they neared the sun. When the sun pulls these smaller fragments toward it, they accelerate until eventually, they are vaporized by the intense forces near the sun.
Kreutz comets travel around the sun on a path called the Kreutz path. It takes a Kreutz comet about 800 years to orbit around the sun one time. We were fortunate that this sungrazer, which scientists say is the biggest they’ve seen in many years, was in a good position for scientists to record its crash.
SOHO has been watching the sun’s activity for more than 20 years. The satellite was launched in 1995 to study the sun and to search for new comets. SOHO is packed full of scientific instruments which can measure the sun’s density, the sun’s temperature and flow, the ion composition of the sun, the electron composition of solar wind, and much, much more.
Check out the video below: