A comet just discovered by amateur astronomer Sergey Shurpakov is diving past the sun today, and it will probably not survive. Click here to view a movie of the death plunge recorded by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
In July 1994 the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 created a series of massive impacts on Jupiter’s surface, providing the first direct observation of an extraterrestrial collision of solar system objects. Could it happen to Earth?
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has become the single greatest comet finder of all time discovering its 200th comet as 2010 drew to a close. Drawing on help from amateur scientists around the world, the ESA/NASA spacecraft quietly reached the milestone on 26 December, 15 years after it was launched.
“Since it launched on 2 December, 1995, to observe the Sun, SOHO has more than doubled the number of comets for which orbits have been determined over the last 300 years,” stated Joe Gurman, the US project scientist for SOHO at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The project team acknowledged that while SOHO may take the credit, most of the hard work is done by the dozens of amateur astronomer volunteers who daily pore over the fuzzy lights dancing across the pictures produced by SOHO’s LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) cameras. According to the scientists, over 70 people from 18 different countries have helped spot comets over the last 15 years by searching through the publicly available SOHO images online.
It took SOHO 10 years to spot its first 1,000th comets, but only 5 more to find the next 1,000. LASCO was not designed primarily to spot comets – its camera blocks out the brightest part of the Sun in order to better watch emissions in the Sun’s much fainter outer atmosphere, or corona. Its comet-finding skills are a natural side effect as with the Sun blocked, it is also much easier to see dimmer objects such as comets.
As Stephen Hawking says, the general consensus is that any comet or asteroid greater than 20 kilometers in diameter that strikes the Earth will result in the complete annihilation of complex life — animals and higher plants. (The asteroid Vesta, for example, one of the destinations of the Dawn Mission, is the size of Arizona). Read full article: dailygalaxy