Sun Grazer

A description applied to a comet that will inevitably disappoint the astronomical world – it is a synonym of ‘the comet of the century’! A Sun Grazer comet is one which passes close to the Sun and therefore offers great potential to become extremely bright with a massive tail. The problem is that as a sun grazer approaches perihelion, the temperatures and gravitational pull will destroy it. Every once in a while, a Sun grazer actually survives and dos indeed become a ‘comet of the century’.

Sun grazers were recognised in the 18th century by the astronomer Heinrich Kreutz working in the last two decades of the 19th century. He noticed that the sun grazers had very similar orbits and postulated they came from a large one that broke up. Very few sun grazers have been discovered from the surface of the Earth. Since the end of the 1970s, satellites using coronographs have been used to discover large numbers of this type of object. In fact, well over 700 have been discovered in thae last 30 years, about 500 being attributed to the ‘Kreutz Group’ of comets, following the orbit he determined all those years ago. The remaining comets seem to belong to 3 separate groups but those of the Kreutz group are approach the Sun much closer than the others. That is probably the reason he saw them as they become brighter before meeting their evaporative end.

An astrophysics chappie, probably an American I guess, has said that a big sun grazer could create a massive solar flare that knocks out electronics on earth.


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