January 19th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Comet death may hint at birth of Earth

It may be the closest thing to hell ever observed by science.

Researchers revealed breathtaking images on Thursday of a kamikaze comet called C/2011 N3 (SOHO) taking a swan-dive into the sun.

Images and research published in the journal Science show a house-sized rock plummeting at more than 1 million miles per hour through million-degree temperatures to within a relative hair's breadth of the sun's surface.

Observations like this have never been seen before, says Karel Schrijver, who led the research at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. "It's never been observed anywhere near this close to the sun."

Comets that brush by the sun are called sungrazers. Thanks to orbiting satellites that can better observe sungrazers, scientists believe they can learn more about how the sun works and the ancient beginnings of Earth.

Analysis of data from last July's comet strike paints a picture of a fascinating ride into a virtual hell.

Imagine sitting on top of the comet as it streaks toward the sun at more than 1 million mph. Looking like "the dirtiest snowball that's ever been made," the black, half-rock, half-ice comet pours off vapor and dust due to evaporating water streaming from its surface at 1,000 mph, says Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory planetary astronomer Carey Lisse, who reviewed the research.

Closing in fast, the comet hits the sun's 1,000,000-degree Fahrenheit corona, creating a fiery shockwave of gas in front of it. The ride gets bumpier and bumpier. The comet begins to rotate faster and faster, and it begins to shed chunks.

Finally - about 62,000 miles from the surface of the sun - nothing.

A 70,000-ton rock's 30-minute suicide dive into a raging cauldron reduces it to vapor.

"That's when we realized we'd not just captured a comet, we'd actually seen it vanish - the end of the life of that particular comet," says Schrijver. "It had completely evaporated."

By studying how comets fall apart, scientists may be able to reverse the process and learn how planets are formed, says Lisse. We still don't know how space dust - a.k.a. "the stuff between the stars" - coalesces to form planets. But comets are made of this stuff. So if we can figure out how comets are created, we'll know a lot more about how Earth formed.

"Comets really are the dinosaur bones of solar system formation," says Lisse. Hundreds of comets brush by the sun each year, experts say, but only one or two per year actually hit the blazing bullseye.

July's sungrazer was a piece of the Kreutz comet, Lisse says, a larger object that broke apart thousands of years ago yielding spectacular comets reported on Earth in the years 1106, 1843, 1882 and 1965. The last of those, called Ikeya-Seki, was bright enough to be seen during the day.

Lockheed Martin's paper stemmed from combined data from NASA's orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SHO) and the Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO).

As more sun-grazers are pinpointed, scientists may be able to learn clues to a comet's makeup by performing thermal desorption spectroscopy, Lisse predicts. It's a technique that identifies the comet's elements by the type of light it gives off while the sun toasts it like an interstellar marshmallow.

Lockheed Martin's scientists determined C/2011 N3 (SOHO)'s mass by measuring energy from the sun's light and the amount of energy it takes to evaporate material off the comet, says Schrijver.

By observing more sungrazers, Schijver hopes to uncover mysteries about the region around the sun that's been hidden by extreme light conditions. He's interested in learning more about the acceleration of charged particles given off by the sun - the solar wind.

"These are places that we have no other means of exploring," he says.

So, get ready to see more hellish images of building-sized boulders vanishing into thin air on the surface of the sun. "I predict this is just the beginning," says Lisse.

Just last month a comet dubbed Lovejoy crashed into the sun and actually survived - astonishing many amateur and professional astronomers by piercing the sun's super-heated atmosphere without being pulled in and disintegrated.

Schrijver says teams are already being assembled to track other sun-grazers with the SDO satellite.

In effect, by their demise, comets become nature's scientific probes, possibly to unlock a treasure trove of  knowledge about our solar system.

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space
soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Lisandra Biesecker

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    July 14, 2013 at 4:45 am |
  2. Orient Express

    there are mysteries we will never solve

    January 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • ChaoticDreams

      really? like the mystery of the shape of the earth or the size of the sun or the composition of an atom or how black holes radiate etc. mysteries are being solved all the time around us, and, should we live long enough, this will be solved to

      January 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dave

      Yea, like where Jimmy Hoffa's body was dumped.

      January 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  3. IBtheOne

    Regarding Bible revisions, as spoken about above, there have been more than 2,000 and what we have today for reference, is the King James version. Moses originally had five, expanded to 45 or so, and many of those revisions have been "revised out". I'm sure another revision of the Bible is in process somewhere. As the universe and man were made in violent events, there will always be conflicts present in our existance. Only if we could learn to accept the diffierences between ourselves, how far could we truly go? for what its worth, I believe in on more than me (God) and science. Its impossible to seperate God from science, if you choose to believe, as he is the greatest of all scientest. As for those scientific greats and those not so great that he has blessed us with, let them keep coming, experimenting, and unravleing the mysteries of our existance in peace.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • timmy

      "Its impossible to seperate God from science, if you choose to believe, as he is the greatest of all scientest."

      All under the massive assumption that your Christian God actually exists. #youignant

      January 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
      • IBtheOne

        Prove that he doesn't tiny timmy weewee! It takes a "brilliant" mind such as the one you posses to even assume that your point relates to the issue raised in mine. If, without research, you can explain what a unit of plank time is, I'll entertain discussing more with you, if not........

        January 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
      • ChaoticDreams

        well actually YOU have to prove your god exists as you are making the hypothesis that he does. it would be the same if i said invisible elephants exist, then i would have to provide proof. so it's all on you buddy

        January 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • IBlake

      Your assumtion is wrong. i don't have to prove anything, for in the example you give about an elephant of some type, as long as you believe it–that's good enough for me. the most important feature about you is your mind (and its ability to not only think but to also create). With such a powerful tool at my disposal, i could create God, place same in your hands, and you would still question the matter. In the religious argument you seek to build, i have no interest, as with many things including many based scientific observation are not proof in themselves, but only the best arguable theory availiable at the time, most of which are still waiting to be truly confirmed.

      January 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
      • Tim

        LOL i like the elephant comment. You religious folks arguing have been the start of so many wars. get over yourselves and stop pushing it onto people. Science is fact.

        February 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
  4. snowyowl

    Do some research on spelling.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  5. palintwit

    Everytime I think of Sarah Palin, I think of teabaggers. Everytime I think of teabaggers, I think of nascar. Everytime I think of nascar, I think of assault rifles. Everytime I think of assault rifles, I think of trailer trash. Everytime I think of trailer trash, I think of Sarah Palin. Every time I think of Sarah Palin, I think of......

    January 20, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Mike

      Every time I think of "palintwit" I vomit. What's your point? You hate Sarah Palin?
      Well good for you. As if you matter.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:10 am |
      • palintwit

        Wow! Who peed in your cornflakes this morning?

        January 20, 2012 at 11:36 am |
      • Mukter

        It's clean, but I agree with Neo-Prodigy it needs something to make it pop. Maybe a gipharc header? What about your Haxan banner? Or use one of your pictures from your research trip.

        August 3, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • derka derka

      I dont even disagree but you may want to think of other things considering this story isn't about politics. Yikes..

      January 20, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • LMFAOLOL

      Ok, and what does this have to do with a comet hitting a sun?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Get help

      Uhh–The story is about a comet, not Sara Palin. You seem to have an obsession. I agree with you that Palin is a complete twit but why bring her up here?

      January 20, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • The all potent one

      Typically closet admirers will go out off their way to bash the one they secretly love. Me thinks you protest to much...

      January 20, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • palintwit

        Me thinks you're on the wrong track.

        January 20, 2012 at 11:45 am |
      • Socalguy

        Ha!. He thinks you're off track? The twit commenting about Palin on a comet article. @ palintwit: stop self medicating when commenting on articles.

        January 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Respect

      You do know that the part of the brain that determines love is located right next to the part that determines hatred so often times the lines are blurred...you may need to reflect on your true feelings for Sarah because its very clear to all cnn posters that you have an infatuation with her even if its "negative" like you try and portray. You act somewhat like a 2nd grader putting gum in a girls hair and calling them names to distract from the fact that your in denial and secretly in love them...i know, i know the truth hurts but everyone needs to face their demons...even trolls.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:57 am |
      • palintwit

        Interesting theory but I disagree in as much as I pretty much bash anything to do with baggers, birthers, evangelicals, christian conservatives, republicans, rednecks, and other assorted vermin who seem to be committed to launching our country forward to the 12th century.

        January 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  6. Hurdling Comets

    Great. Nasa has just confirmed comets DO HURDLE. lol

    January 20, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  7. apostate

    the sun rules!!

    January 20, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  8. Josh

    I learned in an intro to astronomy class that planets were formed by accretion – matter slowly spinning around the sun, faster and faster until they became so dense they were a planet....

    January 20, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • ChaoticDreams

      it's worded very poorly, but i think what they're trying to understand is not how the planets themselves formed (which was accretion), but rather how their particular orbit became stable and in their current locations

      January 22, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. Thomas

    Actually, it more than "merely" evaporated. When something evaporates, it turns into vapor, but the component atoms still exist. When this comet crashed into the sun, not only do the molecules get pulled apart, but the atoms are stripped of their electrons (plasma-ized) and they undergo nuclear fusion, which fuels the sun.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Nonimus

      Interesting, you may be correct about the plasma, I'm not sure, but I doubt that they are undergoing fusion in the corona of the sun.

      January 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Riyah

      I mostly read on a rss radeer so I'm perhaps not your target audience for this post. I remember your old theme as being less bland, as mentioned in the comments above. At the moment clean and simple are thought to equal professional . While I agree we don't want our sites to look like leftover GeoCities or MySpace accounts with crazy backgrounds, ani-gifs, and autoplay music, bland sameness makes me lose track of whose site I'm on.

      August 2, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  10. Dave

    What kind of permanent head damage will use kind of word like kamikaza to make a sansation.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • derka derka

      What the hell are you talking about? Grand stand a little more buddy, talk about making an issue of NOTHING.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  11. Robert

    Fantastic.

    January 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  12. OZ

    Close enough

    January 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  13. OZ

    No dummy. 400miles per second is 24000 miles per minute not hour. Its 1.4 million miles per hour

    January 19, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  14. Dawn M. Holcombe

    I just wanted to say, nice comment to Tim. bl4ck0utsUn

    January 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  15. Ca Ed

    Caption on the picture says 400 mile per SECOND
    Detail in article says comet was going 1million miles per hour
    400m/s * 60s/hour = 24,000 mph 1million m/h

    Did someone at CNN slip a decimal or translate the article from metric? Either way, seems to be a bit off with the math and hyperbole.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • conoclast

      Yeah, there was something about the piece that nagged; you nailed it!

      January 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Primewonk

      400 miles/hr * 60 seconds/minute * 60 minutes/hr = 1.4 million miles/hr

      January 20, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • AL in West Palm Beach

      Ok, here is the complete answer.

      1. Comet travels at 400 m/s
      2. They are 60s in 1 minute, and they are 60mins in 1 hour

      Now, let's find how many seconds are in 1 hour. So it's 60 * 60 = 3600 seconds
      Therefore if the comet was traveling at 400 m/s to find out how fast it was going per hour you would multiply it's speed/perscond times 3600s because that's 1 hour. So 400 * 3600 = 1,440,000.

      Thefore, the comet was traveling at a speed of 1, 440, 000 mph.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:28 am |
      • AmazedinFL

        conoclast, it might 'nag' just because it's really hard to fathom something moving at over 1 million miles per hour, based on speeds at which things move in this world (i.e., our everyday experience).

        January 20, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  16. angryoldguy

    Why oh why is there NEVER any intelligent discourse on Light Years? Just idiot Trolls out to make a point of their ignorance!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Edumucated

      You mean some years are DARK?!!! Well...... gosh..... that is a thing.....

      January 19, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Neil Pharr

      light travels faster than the speed of sound. Some people appear bright, before they speak.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:53 am |
      • TomNYC

        LOL!!!!!!

        January 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  17. JB

    Um, why exactly don't people know how the earth was made? We have actual transcripts of eye witness testimony from someone who was there. Someone who saw the earth being made. They wrote down the events so we wouldn't forget. As for how it was made – G-d spoke, and it was. There's your how!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • John

      Ah, people who just have to shove their religion down everybody's throats.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
      • JB

        Hardly shoving John. People seem to be asking the question, so I simply gave an answer.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
      • johnP

        But you know John – we often feel like you are shoving sience down our throats. I listen to what the sientists tell us with interest, but it is always changing! The Bible does not change. So we express our beliefs and people like you call us horrible names. Why can't you allow us to have our beliefs with dignity? You know I think it is because you question deep down inside what you believe. God created sience, but it is man that can interpret it all wrong. And some times we interpret the bible wrong. Lets exchange ideas and beliefs and allow each others dignity to stay in tact.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
      • Mo

        I hate to break it to you but the bible has changed. Several times. Christian history even admits it. Do some research and you'll see. While you're at it look at whos changing it and when. I believe in God but not Christian.

        January 20, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • John

      No, it was shoving. This is a story about science, not myths (sad that you have to be told that).

      January 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
      • JB

        Actually, the story speculates about origins, built on a philosophical bias of naturalism and materialism. Not quite sure where you got the myths part.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
      • dk

        science is always changing because were always finding more stuff the biible isnt changing because there was nothing there to be found in the first place...

        January 20, 2012 at 9:24 am |
      • John

        When i was young i had blind faith in science. I was addicted to the knowledge i gained. One day when science changed their mind about how long it takes to fossilize a bone, and were off by a few million years, i gave up because i realized i really had "faith" and in that, they let me down. Still love science but realize 80 percent of it is still devloping and not true. I wish they would state that as well

        January 20, 2012 at 10:26 am |
      • The Guy

        JB, I'm assuming you're still naive enough to think every story in the bible is original. Literally every story in the new testament was previously written by another culture hundreds if not thousands of years before. For example, change Dionysus to Jesus and Zeus to God. Poof! Brand new fable.

        January 20, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • name

      no one asked you

      January 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
      • Arrohiem

        I am impressed, Very rarley do I discover a blog that is both educative and entertaining. Your thoughts are important; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to it.

        August 3, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Bucky

      Don't forget how Frodo saved the earth by destroying the one evil ring. He may not have been the sun of god but he at least a saint for what he endured.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • cynthia hicks

      Kindy leave your little book of fairy tails out of this... This is for grown ups.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Primewonk

      Sorry JB, but no. No transcript. No eye witness.

      In fact, your version of a god was so scientifically ignorant, that he completely screwed up his order of creation. This universe began expanding 13.7 billion years ago. But the earth was't formed until 9 billion years later. But your god thinks he made the earth before he made any stars. He also thinks me made vegetation on earth before he made the sun.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Tha Chikin

      Umm... GOD did not write the Bible... MAN DID.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Ian

      Nice try JB, but the world was created first; man had not been created yet, according to genesis. So, were are your eyewitnesses now? Or are you going on the words of a prophet, who's a thousand years dead?

      January 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • timmy

      "The Bible does not change."

      actually youre bible has changed, many times over the years. DO SOME RESEARCH ON YOUR OWN RELIGION. You people believe in something that you do not know the history of. And the book you hold so dear to your heart was written by a bunch of fallible human beings over 1500+ years. The people who wrote about jesus never knew him and only wrote about his 40+ years after he died. Pick up a book other than the bible, you sheep. #youignant.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  18. Dan

    Come on, NASA, even my 10 year old cell phone is capable of color images. Step it up!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • PVille

      yeah not because it's hard enough to see already but the brilliantly bright glow of the sun will really help... (it won't it'd make it worse)

      January 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Scynthyace

      You complain about a lack of color, when this was probably the easiest way for you to actually see the comet... you know... considering the sun is a giant ball of light... But sure, color would make the sun look prettier.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Frank Tillery

      True, but your ten year old cellular phone does not exist in a vacuum under extreme temperatures. Still, we may not have been able to see it in color because of the sun's bright light. I am sure the "folks at NASA" thought of that.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Michael

    CNN forums are synonymous with trolling and bad behavior. Even in a science section, its like the inmates get to paint with fe ces on the wall. CNN, you wont get any credibility until you start moderating your forums.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Robb1371

      Ditto.........Thank You.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Richard

      Michael, I totally agree. The quality of the subsequent comments proves your point!

      January 19, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  20. John

    That wasn't a comet. It was my mother in-law going home.

    January 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Peter

      nice.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  21. Wes

    Have you ever seen a painting paint itself? Me neither.. There is always a CREATOR. Stop trying to figure out what's going on behind the curtain and just enjoy the beauty of God's creation.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • McJesus

      Exactly, if we don't understand something we should just be quiet and give the Leprechauns credit where credit is due.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
      • Edumucated

        Ah, but created the Leprechauns? Unicorns, that's who!!!

        January 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • haha

      All hail the mighty leprechauns.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • joseph

      THANK YOU FOR YOUR IGNORANCE

      January 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • me

      So who paints the creator?

      January 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
      • Edumucated

        Sven. Every three years. Fine old boat, that Creator.

        January 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Elmer Fudd

      Ditto Wes.....It always amazes me to be able to view the universe as it spins around us. :)

      January 20, 2012 at 10:47 am |
      • Emma

        I'll never forget Hale-Bopp! I was lnivig in Yuma, AZ at the time, and there was a lunar eclipse, also, during the same period. I remember my family, standing in our driveway, with a scope and binoculars, observing the lunar eclipse in the eastern sky, and watching the comet in the western sky!Like this photo, a memory for a lifetime!

        August 1, 2012 at 8:32 am |
      • Tousif

        By :RE: But from looking at the graph it looks like SEA is rvoreecing Nope. You are not in recovery when things are getting worse. A slower decline rate is still declining and this is no recovery. If you are sick and are getting sicker you are not in recovery even if you were getting sicker faster yesterday. Recovery, temporary or permanent starts when you stop getting sicker at least in the world prior to the financial meltdown, now everything is being spun to fool the common man to part from his money to help support a bankers new yacht.Don't forget that you are looking at the year-over-year change. As a result, the YOY graph shows a delayed reaction of the market by up to a year. in your analogy, if you had cancer and were getting worse month by month for years, but you have finished chemo and are now getting better day by day, you are in the recovery stage, even if you aren't as good as you were a year ago, you are still better than you were yesterday, or a month ago, so you are rvoreecing. It may take a year before you can say you are better than you were a year ago. When the YOY change graph shows 0% change, we will be well past the bottom and into recovery. Whether we are in recovery now is still up for debate though. Personally, I would agree with Trigger, a slower rate of decline is an improvement and a sign of recovery.

        August 3, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  22. MichaelinVA

    A million miles per hour? I thought

    January 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  23. ras666

    "It may be the closest thing to hell" -- What is hell and where is it?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Wes

      Google these Bible verses... Revelations 20:13-15 Revelations 21:8 Revelations 20:10 Ezekiel 28:16-17 Revelation 12:9 Isaiah 14:12 Matthew 10:28 Matthew 13:49-50

      January 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
      • timmy

        google: bible written by men

        January 24, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • McJesus

      It was in the ground somewhere below your feet. That is until science gained the ability to probe the Earth's surface for resources, and seismologists were able to map the inner Earth over time by analyzing global seismic signatures. It was then, that Satan(tm) himself decided he better pick up and move. Because he fears ending up in Guantanamo Bay accused of terrorism for 'making people do bad things', and other annoying things... such as the highly feared 'gnashing of teeth' as mentioned in the bible.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
      • The Guy

        Sort of like when Galileo discovered the imperfections on the moon and thus the heavens causing christians to say, "well even though we've been saying god and heaven are above us for the last 1500 years, they're not REALLY above us... come on... it's only literal if we really really mean it... or until we know more... wait, what? the earth is round? crap."

        January 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  24. cog in the wheel

    I'm sure this has been considered...but IF we could inexpensively send nuclear waste into space, then give it a gentle push towards the sun, it would seem to be a good way to get rid of that dangerous material (better than burying it somewhere, no?) It won't matter how long it took, eventually it would arrive at the Sun and be consumed.

    I'm not a proponent of nuclear energy because we have no truly safe place to put radioactive waste. Sending it into the Sun would seem a possible alternative (though I'm certainly no expert.)

    January 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      The problem is a single failed launch that deposited all that material in the atmosphere would be no less than catastrophic.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Chris

      And if the rocket explodes on it's way up after launch?

      January 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • MagicBishop

      Nuclear waste is extreemly dense and heavy. Aside from the safety concerns it would not be cost efficient.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Waste

      Search the Ted site for how some feel that Nuclear waste will soon be fuel for a different type of reactor.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • bspurloc

      thats why the Space Ladder is key

      January 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • knghtshingrmour

      The reason is you can not use a gentle push. Think of an ice dancer spinning, as they bring in thier arms they speed up and slow down when the extend thier arms.
      The Earth travels around the sun at about 67,000 miles an hour (google it if you do not believe it). To get into orbit, like the space station you need about 17,000 miles an hour. So it takes 4 times as much speed to cancel Earth's orbit and get to the Sun as it does to get to the Space Station.

      Now you can slingshot past the Earth or other planets to redirect your course and make it there with less rocket but it takes someone costrolling it along the way as we would hate to have it return home. If you look up The Messenger Mission to Mercury you'll find out how hard they worked to just get it in as close as the PLanet Mercury.

      Best leave these things to people who unserstand basic Physics.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Elmer Fudd

      I say we just dump it in Utah with the rest of the trash

      January 20, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  25. Greg

    Man, I want to be shot into the sun sooo bad when I die.

    January 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Jeff

      TYA

      January 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  26. Chris

    "July's sungrazer was a piece of the Kreutz comet, Lisse says, a larger object that broke apart thousands of years ago"

    How about "is thought to have broken apart" or "may have broken apart". Was there a witness when this (allegedly) happened? Please don't present information as fact which can never be proven. Please identify theory/estimates/conjecture as such.

    January 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Yakobi

      I'd trust scientific measurements over eyewitnesses any day. When you rely solely upon eyewitnesses, you wind up with silly things like religion.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
      • Grumpster

        Amen to that!!!

        January 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
      • Dan

        What "scientific measurements" were presented? Silly "scientist."

        January 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
      • DAN

        Yakobi, if you do not think Islam is a religion then in itself, it will end up heading towards the sun!

        January 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Frank

      When you were out of your house yesterday at noon, how do you know that your clocks ever actually read noon? How do you know that they didn't just jump from 11:00 to 01:00? Do you have witnesses that they read 12:00?

      January 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
      • Edumucated

        Having been able to observe time and again how clocks work, empirically proving that the essential functions of clocks are predictable, one can assume that a working clock, unless it stops, will operate as designed... by the person who designed and built the clock. Consider my mind unblown.

        January 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Jim

      They do this by tracing the orbits backwards.

      You know, your brand of ignorance is perhaps the most virulent of all. Complete misunderstanding of the scientific method, coupled with no inhibitions about sharing your uninformed opinion.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      I agree with Chris, it is a probability, not a fact. Perhaps be retracing the trajectories into the past the trajectories overlap near each other, making it a logical speculation that they originated from the break up of a larger object.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Achernar

      Actually, many fragments of Kreutz have been observed. They just list the large ones. I agree that 1106 is just a possible fragment. The recorded observations are not good enough to be completely positive. For 1843 and 1882, astrometry was more than precise enough to determine the exact orbit. Given that orbits occur in three dimensions. The possibility that several recently (pretty much anything since the telescope was invented) observed objects could share the exact same orbit and not be from the same parent object is extremely remote. This is far more than just “overlapping trajectories”. Also, for any of the fragments observed in about the last century, they have used spectroscopy to demonstrate that their compositions are also identical.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  27. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    Only a moronic evangelical would vote for someone whose name is synonymous with anal secretions. A freak who brings a dead baby home to sleep with.

    January 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mike

      and how does this relate to a comet hitting the sun? Go take your politico nonsense somewhere else.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
      • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

        Well, a comet and Rick Santorum both have tails , don't they?

        January 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
      • McJesus

        Santorum would claim that the comet is a flaming chariot led by pegasus, and that space was a black sheet with pinholes in it.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Yakobi

      What, you've gotten tired of bashing Sarah Palin, so you're now desperate to tag some other republican candidate with the "twit" label? So predictable, so...childish.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
      • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

        We must never tire of bashing birthers, baggers or evangelicals. As for Sarah Palin, well, she's just so... so... bashable !

        January 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
      • McJesus

        Anyone who believes in fairies deserves to be exposed and mocked.

        January 19, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
      • Jimmy

        For all its worth, Andre is what one can now call a legend, which will quifaly him as someone I would like to meet at least once. Thanks to this blog post. LOL.

        August 3, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • Its Obamas Fault

      It's Obamas fault man, don't stress...

      January 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • phillie

      With every word you type, the synonym you speak of soley belongs to you.

      January 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Ah, the athiest liberals are out in force today aren't they? Typical

      January 20, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  28. Matt

    I don't think that comet "hurdled" into the sun as it did not eventually overcome an obstacle. It more likeley hurtled toward the sun.

    January 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jim

      I don't think that the comet more "likeley" hurtled toward the sun; I think that the comet more likely hurtled toward the sun.

      January 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
      • Matt

        Yes, it likeley did Jim. Good thing I don't post entire articles on the web. I bet you spell checked the heck out of your response. Good catch you dweeb.

        January 19, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
      • Naivtal

        For someone who takes time out of their "busy" day to harp on picayune errors in an online article, you sure can't handle it when someone else calls them out on the same error. Typical online commenter – to busy searching for specks of sawdust in other peoples eyes to notice the speck in their own.

        January 20, 2012 at 11:30 am |
      • Momof3

        ...do you mean TOO busy looking for specks of sawdust...? ;)

        February 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  29. mary

    I saw this on a regular subscriber on you tube weeks ago...
    He was asking then what it was...I don't know how he sees all these things. But he had it on his channel the day it happened.. Asking what it was..
    Old news..

    January 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  30. Johnny 5

    Science is the crusher of myths. What a great time to be alive!

    January 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • mary

      Science is great.. But it is just discovering what has already existed , what exists..
      When science creates anything huge. Like nuclear power.. It creates great harm...
      Science can be our undoing too.. When man is doing the creating.. Because man is in and of himself. just a creation of some thing greater.

      January 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
      • FrankR

        and will also be the crusher of humanity, if we are not careful on how we use the knowledge.

        January 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
      • Mark

        Just because science creates something huge doesn't necessarily mean it harmful. The sun is nuclear power and it is the engine that has made it possible for life to exist here on Earth.

        January 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
      • Dan, TX

        Science doesn't kill people, people kill people.

        January 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
      • TIM

        Yes the universe is far greater and we are a creation of it. Science can do allot of harm caused by man but not near the harm caused by people who believe in some mythical God that doesn't exist. Science in the right hands can tell us where we actually came from.

        January 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  31. Martoon

    This happened in July 2011? Now that's news!

    January 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  32. Terry

    Hurdling?

    January 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Stan

      Apparently it missed the last hurtle. (incorrect word choice intended)

      January 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

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