Last month, Earth-dwellers were treated to a spectacular sight as the green comet Nishimura slingshotted past our Sun. There was a short stint where you could even go outside and see the green comet flying across the sky. A new NASA video showcases what happens when a comet like Nishimura meets the outburst of a solar eruption, and it’s absolutely stunning.
NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO-A) captured the video in question. The spacecraft captured video of Nishimura as it slingshotted past the Sun. However, something unexpected happened as the comet passed our Sun: a massive solar eruption rushed out to meet it.
While most comets like Nishimura would have been lost to the power of the outburst, this particular comet persevered. However, STEREO-A did capture footage of the solar eruption cutting the comet’s tail in half as they met. So, while the comet wasn’t eaten up by the Sun’s outburst, it was still affected by the energy that it expelled.
Videos like this latest one captured by STEREO-A help us better understand what comets like Nishimura are made of. This particular comet, and others like it, are believed to originate far away in the Oort Cloud, a massive region that surrounds our solar system. It’s believed to be teaming with icy objects like comets and is found beyond Neptune’s orbit.
The new video of the comet meeting the solar eruption was captured during the comet’s closest approach to our Sun on September 17. While the comet lost its tail for a short period of time, it continued on its journey out of our core solar system, and it isn’t likely to make another trip toward Earth for the next few hundred years.
Still, watching the comet’s tail be whipped away from it in this video is breathtaking and a show of force from the star that sits at the center of our little piece of the universe.