Thursday, December 30, 2010

NASA SOHO Image: 2,000th Comet spotted

SOHO's 2,000th comet, spotted by a Polish amateur astronomer on Dec. 26, 2010. 

Credit: SOHO/Karl Battams 

As people on Earth prepare to mark the passage of another year, a sun-studying spacecraft has quietly reached a big milestone of its own: discovering its 2,000th comet.
The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a probe operated jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency, detected comet No. 2,000 on Dec. 26. SOHO, which draws on help from citizen scientists around the world, is the single greatest comet-finder of all time, researchers said.
This is an impressive show of versatility, since SOHO was designed to monitor the sun, not look for comets.
"Since it launched on December 2, 1995, to observe the sun, SOHO has more than doubled the number of comets for which orbits have been determined over the last 300 years," Joe Gurman, the U.S. project scientist for SOHO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement.

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