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SOHO's view of comet NEAT on 18 February 2003.
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Image courtesy NASA

Comet NEAT passes Sun
News story originally written on February 20, 2003

The picture on this page shows Comet NEAT on February 18, 2003 as it passed very close to the Sun. The comet was too close to the Sun to be viewed from Earth; the bright light from the Sun blocked our view of the comet. However, the SOHO spacecraft, which observes the Sun continuously from an orbit 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, was able to capture images of the comet's close pass by the Sun. SOHO has an instrument called a coronagraph, which blocks out the brightest light from the Sun, allowing it a good view of the comet's closest approach.

Comet NEAT (which is also called Comet C/2002 V1) was discovered in November 2002 by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program, which searches for asteroids that pass near Earth. This time the NEAT project found a comet instead of an asteroid, so Comet NEAT was named in honor of the program that found it.

Scientists are interested in observing comets as they pass near the Sun. Since comets are made mostly of ice, they melt a lot when they pass near the Sun. Scientists are curious about how a comet changes as it melts. The picture on this page also shows a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) erupting from the Sun. A CME is a huge explosion on the Sun. Scientists are curious to see what effect the CME had on the comet.


Last modified February 21, 2003 by Randy Russell.

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