New action film set in solar system’s center

Videos are first to capture a comet's fiery plunge into the sun

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DEATH PLUNGE Videos taken by the twin STEREO spacecraft show two views of a comet falling into the sun. The blue image comes from a craft that trails Earth in its orbit around the sun; the green image comes from a craft that flies ahead of Earth. STEREO

MIAMI — Twin spacecraft have created the first videos of a comet’s final approach to the sun. Taken in mid-March by the STEREO spacecraft, one of which leads the Earth in its orbit about the sun while the other lags behind, the movies show the doomed comet as well as solar storms hurled from the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, from two different perspectives. The videos track the comet to within about a sun’s width of the solar surface, finally losing the object when it passes behind a mask that blots out the brilliant light from the solar disk in order to make fainter objects visible. Claire Raftery, Juan Carlos Martinez-Oliveros and their colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, unveiled the videos May 24 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami.

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