Tech UPTechnologyNASA-ESA solar observatory discovers their 4000th comet

NASA-ESA solar observatory discovers their 4000th comet

Despite the economic, health and social crisis that we are experiencing on a planetary level, scientific research continues; specifically, the observation and exploration of space. The NASA-ESA solar observatory has discovered its 4000th comet in 25 years of exploration, a round figure that the scientific community has wanted to celebrate these days. The object has been temporarily christened SOHO-4000, pending its official designation, in honor of the instrument with which it was discovered, the SOHO mission of NASA and ESA.

As published by NASA on its official website, SOHO-4000 is (relatively) small: it measures between 4.5 and 9 meters in diameter. Due to its proximity to the Sun it is impossible to see it from Earth, so the SOHO mission is, for now, the only observatory that has detected it.

Launched in 1995, SOHO studies the Sun from its interior to its outer atmosphere approximately one and a half million kilometers from our planet. But in the last 25 years, SOHO has become the best kite finder in human history . SOHO’s kite hunting prowess comes from a combination of factors; These include its long lifespan, its sensitive instruments focused on the solar corona, and the tireless work of scientists analyzing SOHO data in search of new comets – essentially frozen assemblages of gases, rocks and dust that orbit the Sun .

The vast majority of new comets found from the SOHO mission data come from its coronagraphy instrument, called LASCO, (short for wide-angle and spectrometric coronagraphy). Like other coronagraphs, LASCO uses a metal disk to block out the brightest side of the Sun, allowing its cameras to focus on the relatively faint atmosphere – the corona. The corona is critical to understanding how changes in the Sun affect the solar system, making LASCO a key part of SOHO’s scientific quest to understand the Sun and its influence.

Karl Battams, a space scientist at the United States Naval Research Laboratory, works at SOHO and manages its comet search program: “SOHO has not only rewritten the history books in terms of solar physics, but has also unexpectedly rewritten the books in terms of comets, “he announced in an official NASA statement.

Why is June a great month to discover comets?

So far in June, 17 comets have been discovered in the first nine days of the month, about double the normal rate of discoveries. Therefore, the discovery of comet number 4000 has occurred earlier than expected by researchers. What is the reason for this high discovery rate?

The SOHO mission generally experiences an increase in comet discoveries each June because Earth’s position in space places SOHO at a good angle to see sunlight reflected off comets following the path of the Kreutz ensemble, a family of comets that represents approximately 85% of the objects discovered by SOHO.

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