A newly-discovered comet is plunging toward the sun and probably will not survive. The encounter is too close to the sun for human eyes to see, but the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is able to monitor the action using an opaque disk to block the sun's glare. Click on the image to launch a 12-hour time-lapse animation:
The doomed comet is probably a member of the Kreutz sungrazer family. Named after a 19th century German astronomer who studied them in detail, Kreutz sungrazers are fragments from the breakup of a giant comet at least 2000 years ago. Several of these fragments pass by the sun and disintegrate every day. Most are too small to see but occasionally a big fragment--like this one--attracts attention.
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