Recently, Earth’s inhabitants witnessed the incredible passage of the green comet Nishimura as it swung closely by our Sun. For a brief moment, the comet’s vivid green streak was visible to the naked eye.
A recent video released by NASA unveils the captivating interaction between a comet like Nishimura and a powerful solar flare, delivering an awe-inspiring spectacle.
The mesmerizing footage was taken by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO-A). This probe documented Nishimura’s close approach to the Sun. Yet, as the comet neared our solar star, an unforeseen solar flare surged forward, reaching out toward the comet.
While many comets similar to Nishimura might have succumbed to such intense solar activity, this one proved resilient. Nonetheless, STEREO-A did record the comet’s tail being split by the solar flare during their encounter. Thus, even though Nishimura wasn’t consumed by the Sun’s flare, it certainly felt its potent force.
Comet ahoy! Our STEREO mission caught this glimpse of Comet Nishimura as it made its closest pass by the Sun last week.
While STEREO’s main job is studying the Sun and its connection to Earth, the spacecraft’s images of comets help us understand what the icy bodies are made of. pic.twitter.com/pzHqIcPJYP
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) September 27, 2023
Footage like that from STEREO-A offers invaluable insights into the composition of comets such as Nishimura. Comets of this kind are thought to hail from the distant Oort Cloud, a vast area enveloping our solar system, filled with icy celestial bodies and situated beyond the realm of Neptune.
This remarkable footage, capturing the moment the comet intersected with the solar flare, was recorded on September 17 during Nishimura’s nearest approach to the Sun.
Despite briefly losing its tail, the comet journeyed onward, exiting our central solar system. It’s anticipated that Nishimura won’t venture close to Earth again for several centuries.
Observing the comet’s tail being dramatically swept away in the video is truly a testament to the immense power of our central celestial body.