A comet has been spotted disintegrating in the atmosphere of the sun for the first time.
Such sun-diving comets are common but none have been seen surviving entry into the sun's atmosphere until now. They could help reveal what comets are made of and also uncover hidden properties of the sun's atmosphere, researchers said today (Jan. 19) as they announced the discovery.
A group of comets known as the Kreutz family regularly flies perilously close to the sun.
In the past 15 years, more than 1,400 of these dirty snowballs have been detected, likely originating from a giant parent comet 20 to 100 kilometers wide (12 to 62 miles) that broke apart as recently as 2,500 years ago. However, until now, none of the telescopes trained on the sun was sensitive enough to follow any of these comets to their demise in the sun's atmosphere.