Sunbathing comet

Sunbathing comet

. The short-period comet 96/P Machholz passed through the Sunís million-degree atmosphere, or corona, in January 2002, when it approached within about 18 billion meters of the Sun, or about 0.12 AU where one AU is the average Earth-Sun distance. The cometís coma and foreshortened tail can be seen above the occulting disk of the SOHO instrument that recorded this image. In a spectacular coincidence, a giant magnetic bubble, known as a coronal mass ejection, was explosively hurled from the Sun at about the same time (left). A CME tosses billions of tons of coronal gas into space, expanding to become much larger than the Sun. The white circle denotes the outer edge of the visible solar disk. Venus lies just outside the occulting disk (below right). The planet is so bright that its image is marred by a horizontal stripe. (Courtesy of the SOHO LASCO consortium. SOHO is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University