Close encounter between the Sun and Comet 96P/Machholz

 

Today, spacecraft are monitoring a close encounter between the sun and Comet 96P/Machholz.

This is no ordinary comet. 96P/Machholz has a strange chemical composition that has prompted astronomers to wonder if it comes from another star system.

Moreover, it is linked to a complicated network of debris streams criss-crossing the Solar System, suggesting that 96P/Machholz may have exploded in the distant past.

The comet will receive a new blast of heat in the days ahead as it swoops past the sun deep inside the orbit of Mercury.

Will it fragment further? Visit Spaceweather.com to see the latest images.

Above: The orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is monitoring the comet’s approach to the sun.  SOHO uses a coronagraph–that is, an opaque disk to block solar glare–to see comets and planets otherwise invisible to the human eye.

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