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Sci-Tech

NASA captures comet making suicide run at the sun

The SOHO solar observatory happened to catch a sungrazing space snowball in its brave final moments.

That's one fewer comet in the universe.

ESA/NASA/SOHO/Joy Ng

So-called sungrazer comets are the daredevils of the cosmos attempting, like Icarus or Queen Margaery Tyrell, to fly high and tight by the sun without getting burned. This week, ESA and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) caught a sungrazer that flew a little too close.

The above animated GIF comes from SOHO's Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph, which takes images of the solar corona by blocking direct light from the sun. Where the actual disc of the sun would be in the video is represented by a white circle. Between August 3 and 4, SOHO saw a Kreutz comet attempting (and failing) to make a close pass around the sun.

The Kreutz family of comets is a group of icy space rocks that broke off one huge comet centuries ago and retain related orbits.

The family is now one comet smaller.

While it appears the comet in the video dived straight into the sun, NASA said it actually "whipped around it -- or at least, it would have if it had survived its journey. Like most sungrazing comets, this comet was torn apart and vaporized by the intense forces near the sun," NASA said in a statement Thursday.

The sun has taken other even greater comets from us before their time. In late 2013, Comet ISON, which had the potential to put on one of the greatest shows in the sky by a comet in a century, was snuffed out as it attempted to slingshot around the sun.