Comet C/2002 V1 (NEAT) is putting on a fine show for ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) space probe. As the comet swings closer to the Sun, it has gotten brighter. Now it is the brightest comet ever observed by SOHO's LASCO instrument.
The show became even more spectacular in the early hours of 18 February 2003, when the Sun unleashed a storm of charged particles, known as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). It looked as if this ejection was heading for the comet.
Astronomers are trying to find out if there was a head-on collision. The comet will remain in the LASCO field of view until Thursday 20 February 2003.
First recognised in the 1970s, CMEs play an important role in space weather. They occur when the magnetic field of the Sun whiplashes, sending a cloud of super-hot gaseous debris flying off into space. When a CME occurs very fast and powerfully and stretches out in the direction of our planet, it can cause a chain of effects. What can happen?
The effects can affect satellites in orbit, burn out power station transformers on Earth, and endanger orbiting astronauts. Studying CMEs and their effects is an important goal for modern science.
Comet C/2002 V1 NEAT
SOHO Science at ESA
SOHO Science at NASA
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Comets Break Up Far And Near
Pasadena (JPL) Sep 11, 2002
Some comets may break apart over and over again in the farthest reaches of the solar system, challenging a theory that comets break up only occasionally and not too far from the Sun, says a researcher from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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