Astronomy News

Comet approaches the sun on October 22, 2001. Image by Solar and Heliospheric Observatory courtesy SOHO/NASA.
Comet approaches the sun on October 22, 2001. Image by Solar and Heliospheric Observatory courtesy SOHO/NASA.

November 1, 2001 - As a comet approached the sun on October 22, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) was monitoring two coronal mass ejections from the sun headed for Earth. Solar radiation heated the comet's ice and rocks causing an outgassing of water and dust. The water molecules broke down in the sun's ultraviolet light into oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms interacted with the sun's coronal plasma and glowed brightly. The dark circle in upper left corner is the sun masked by an instrument that blots out sunlight. The white circle within the disk shows the size and position of the actual sun.

 

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