A comet that dived into the sun on Oct. 1 was followed by a spectacular coronal mass ejection. Is there a link between the two events?
Back in May, this blog covered an extraordinary occurrence in space: The fiery death of a sun-diving comet timed in sync with a huge solar eruption, or coronal mass ejection. It was fascinating footage but "probably coincidence," I wrote.
It's happened again. Twice.
As you can see in the below video, a comet with a death wish plunged into the sun on Saturday, Oct. 1. Moments later, an immense blowout tore from the sun's atmosphere seemingly on the opposite side of the star. The crazy happening was recorded by the European Space Agency and NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
The repeat performance of what seems like an improbable event has some scientists scratching their heads. According to the impossible-to-not-be-fascinating website Space Weather:
Before 2011 most solar physicists would have discounted the events of Oct. 1st as pure coincidence--and pure coincidence is still the most likely explanation. Earlier this year, however, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) watched another sungrazer disintegrate in the sun's atmosphere. On July 5, 2011, the unnamed comet appeared to interact with plasma and magnetic fields in its surroundings as it fell apart. Could a puny comet cause a magnetic instability that might propagate and blossom into a impressive CME? The question is not so crazy as it once seemed to be.
First, watch what happened on Saturday:
Now let's travel back to June 2, 1998, when the same thing reoccurred. This time, SOHO caught two comets of the Kreutz sun-grazing family penetrating the sun's blazing sheath shortly before a coronal mass ejection ripped into space: