Washington: NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) along with the European Space Agency (ESA) have captured an unusual comet that skimmed past the Sun Feb 18-21.
"There is a half decent chance that ground observers might be able to detect it in the coming weeks," said Karl Battams, solar scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, DC.
"But it is also possible that events during its trip around the Sun will cause it to die fairly fast," he added.
This comet was interesting for two reasons. First it is what is called a non-group comet, meaning it is not part of any known family of comets. Most comets seen by SOHO belong to the Kreutz family - all of which broke off from a single giant comet many centuries ago, the US space agency said in a statement.
The second reason it is interesting is because the vast majority of comets that come close enough to the Sun to be seen by SOHO do not survive the trip. Known as sungrazers, these comets usually evaporate in the intense sunlight.
This comet made it to within 2.2 million miles of the sun's surface, but survived the trip intact. Since launching in 1995, SOHO has become the number one comet finder of all time - this was comet discovery number 2,875. However, SOHO sees non-group comets like this only a few times a year.