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See green comet Nishimura’s tail get whipped away by powerful solar storm as it slingshots around the sun

Video footage of Comet Nishimura captured by NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft. The comet’s tail disappears after the comet was battered by a massive wave of plasma that was unleashed by the sun.  (Image credit: NASA/NRL/Karl Battams)

The recently discovered green comet Nishimura has been body slammed by a potential coronal mass ejection (CME) after surviving a close encounter with the sun. The unexpected collision, which briefly blew away the comet’s tail, was caught on camera by a NASA spacecraft. 

In footage captured by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO-A) spacecraft, the plasma plume slammed into Nishimura and “jostled around” the comet’s tail — the trailing stream of dust and gas that was blown off the comet by the sun — before completely pinching it off, Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at the United States Naval Research Laboratory who created the video of the event (shown above), told Live Science in an email. 

Comet Nishimura, also known as C/2023 P1, was first spotted falling rapidly toward the sun on Aug. 12 by amateur Japanese astronomer Hideo Nishimura. Its steep trajectory initially hinted that it could be an interstellar object, like ‘Oumuamua or Comet 2I/Borisov, that would leave the solar system after it slingshotted around the sun. However, follow-up observations revealed that the comet originated from the Oort Cloud — a reservoir of comets and other icy objects beyond the orbit of Neptune — and has a highly elliptical orbit that brings it into the inner solar system roughly every 430 years. 

Comet Nishimira’s orbital position on Sept. 17 when it reached perihelion with the sun. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

On Sept. 12, Comet Nishimura reached its closest point to Earth when it passed within 78 million miles (125 million kilometers) of our planet, or roughly 500 times the average distance between Earth and the moon. In the days leading up to this, the comet became clearly visible near the horizon shortly before sunrise and shortly after sunset, which led to some stunning photos of the icy object streaking across the night sky. In some of these photos, Nishimura gave off a green glow due to a high concentration of dicarbon in the cloud of gas and dust, known as a coma, that surrounds its rocky core.

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