The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA, was not designed to find comets — its original goal was to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer layers of its atmosphere. But nearly 25 years since its launch, data from this space-based solar observatory has led to the discovery of well over half of all known comets — upwards of 3,950 new comets found. The huge number of SOHO-discovered comets comes thanks to a combination of well-designed instruments, a long lifespan, the hard work of citizen scientists and a little bit of luck.
Animated GIF of sungrazer comet passing the Sun. Credit: Genna Duberstein
Animated gif of comets filling the sky. Credit: Genna Duberstein
Animated GIF of comets vaporizing as they pass the Sun. Credit: Genna Duberstein
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center