Watch a rogue daredevil comet survive grazing the sun

A lone-wolf comet buzzes the sun and surprises researchers by making it around to the other side.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Comet near the sun
The red arrow points out the comet as it escapes from the sun. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

NASA released a fascinating 15-second space video that has it all: a lovable rogue lead character, danger, drama and a surprise ending. The video involves the 2,875th comet discovered by SOHO, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft. SOHO is a joint project run by NASA and the European Space Agency, and it caught a series of fascinating images of the unusual comet making a run past the sun.

The primary mission of SOHO, which launched in 1995, is to study the sun, but it has also been racking up comet discoveries. Comet No. 2,875 is of particular interest because it's known as a "non-group comet" that isn't a part of an existing comet family. Most of the comets SOHO sees are from what's known as the Kreutz family, chunks of a much larger comet that broke up several centuries ago.

The comet's other outstanding feature is that it survived zipping around the sun within 2.2 million miles of the blazing hot star's surface. NASA notes that most other sun-grazing comets evaporate in the sun's heat.

A video created from SOHO images shows the comet approaching from the right side of the frame, circling around the sun and coming out the other side. The sun spits out a coronal mass ejection near the end for extra dramatic effect.

"There's a half-decent chance that ground observers might be able to detect it in the coming weeks," said solar scientist Karl Battams. He also says the comet's close brush with the sun could cause it to die soon, so the story may not have such a happy ending after all.