Comets will occasionally come a little too close to the Sun and crash into a fiery oblivion, but until now we had never been able to see it as it happened (though there have been some fake comet-smashes-the-sun videos circulating online). Witness the last moments of a sun-grazer comet. Blink and you may miss it - look at the photo below to see where the comet enters the frame.

Sun-grazers were first discovered and described in the 19th century by astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who realized the eccentric orbits of certain comets would bring them incredibly close to the Sun. These so-called Kreutz comets are thought to be the remnants of one single, gigantic comet that broke apart long ago, which explains their very similar, sun-approaching trajectory.

For this particular comet, a slight variance in orbit put it on a collision course with our star, and the heat and radiation of the Sun caused it to evaporate on approach. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped this photo of the final moments of its approach on July 6. It took about fifteen minutes total for the comet to approach and completely disintegrate. While we've been able to get partial views of comet destruction before - you can see one such video here - this is the first time we have a clear photo and video of the actual final approach to the Sun.


Via SDO.