Image of three comets captured by the SOHO satellite
© ESA/NASA/SOHO/Karl Battams
Image of three comets captured by the SOHO satellite
A solar satellite launched by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) spotted a cluster of three comets flying close to the sun. A scientist who analyzed the images stated that the object did not come from a well-known family of comets.

The comet cluster was spotted by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a robotic satellite launched by NASA through a joint project with the ESA in 1995. The main mission of the satellite is to observe the sun in order to collect data regarding its various activities and behavior.

Recently, while gazing at the giant star, SOHO spotted three comets flying in front of it. Karl Battams, a computational scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., compiled the coronagraph images captured by SOHO to create a short animated video of the flying comets. The clip shows the bright objects flying across the surface of the sun.

"The two main components are easy to spot, with the third, a very faint, diffuse fragment following alongside the leading piece," Battams said, according to SpaceWeather.com.

Usually, the comets spotted by SOHO flying in front of the sun are members of the Kreutz sungrazer family. These sungrazers are the fragments of a massive comet that broke apart over a thousand years ago.

According to NASA, most of SOHO's comet sightings, which already reached over 4,000, were caused by Kreutz sungrazers. Only about 4% or around 175 comets spotted by the satellite are not part of the comet fragment family.

After observing the trajectory of the three comets flying in front of the sun, Battams noted that they are not part of the Kreutz sungrazers. The scientist said that it is not yet clear where the comets came from.

Based on the images, Battams pointed out that the brightness of the comets is fading. This means that the comets will disappear soon.

"Unfortunately, the prognosis for small fragmenting comets like this is not good," he stated. "This was probably this comet's first and last pass by the sun, as it has likely now crumbled away entirely. But SOHO will continue to keep watching the sun, and waiting for our next special cometary offering to come along."