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Sungrazer Project announces 5000th comet detection through public science project
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Sungrazer Project announces 5000th comet detection through public science project
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 28, 2024

The United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) marked a significant achievement on March 25 with the discovery of the 5000th comet by its Sungrazer Project, utilizing data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

The Sungrazer Project, a NASA-funded initiative hosted by NRL for over two decades, empowers global volunteers to identify potential new comets near the Sun using data from ESA and NASA's heliophysics imaging instruments. This program has resulted in nearly all its discoveries through images captured by the Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) on the SOHO satellite since its 1995 deployment.

LASCO, a coronagraph designed to image the solar corona and surrounding regions, has inadvertently become a prolific source of new comet discoveries, identifying comets as they vaporize close to the Sun, a process invisible from Earth. The project's success, initially unforeseen, has exceeded expectations in both data quantity and scientific contribution.

Karl Battams, Ph.D., NRL researcher and principal investigator for LASCO and the Sungrazer Project, highlighted the unexpected and groundbreaking nature of LASCO's contributions to comet discovery and solar studies. The 5000th comet, identified by Hanjie Tan, a Ph.D. student in Prague and a long-time project participant since his teenage years, represents a rare survival case, having passed the Sun at a relatively safe distance, similar to that of NASA's Parker Solar Probe.

This milestone discovery, named SOHO-5000, is part of the 'Marsden group' of comets, a lineage first identified through SOHO discoveries. These findings have not only expanded our knowledge of comet groups but also enhanced understanding of cometary composition, behavior, and interaction with solar phenomena, contributing significantly to heliophysics and space weather prediction.

As the SOHO mission approaches its scheduled conclusion in 2025, nearly extending three decades beyond its original lifespan, the scientific community reflects on its transformative impact on heliophysics and comet science. The project's legacy, as noted by Battams, lies in its substantial contributions to our understanding of the Sun and the myriad of discoveries that have revolutionized the field.

Related Links
United States Naval Research Laboratory
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology

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