In a rare celestial spectacle near Earth's own star, two comets were seen plunging into the Sun's atmosphere in close succession on June 1 and 2. The demise of the comets was followed the same day by a dramatic ejection of hot gas and magnetic energy known as a coronal mass ejection. The observations were made by the Large-Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). The comets belong to a family known as the "Kreutz Sun-grazers," a class of comets that pass through the solar atmosphere, or corona, at distances as close as 50,000 km (30,000 miles) from the surface. In the images taken on June 1 and 2, the comets brighten rapidly as they approach the Sun and disappear as they are evaporated by solar radiation. Solar physicists have never seen a comet actually hit the Sun's surface, as comets which appear bright against the night sky are quickly lost in the glare of the Sun.
The above story is based on materials provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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