A recently discovered comet was spotted during the 2020 Solar Eclipse

As Chile and Argentina witnessed the total solar eclipse on December 14, 2020, unbeknownst to viewers, a tiny speck was flying past the Sun – a recently discovered comet.

This comet was first seen in satellite data by amateur Thai astronaut Worachate Boonplod on the Sungrazer Project, funded by NASA – a citizen science project that invites anyone to discover and discover new comets in images from the -European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO.

Boonplod discovered the comet on Dec. 13, the day before the eclipse. He knew the eclipse was coming, and wanted to see if his new comet discovery could appear in the outer atmosphere of the sun as a small speck in eclipse images.

The comet, named C / 2020 X3 (SOHO) by the Mini-Planet Center, is a “Kreutz” sunflower. This family of comets came from a giant parent comet that broke up into smaller fragments over a thousand years ago and still revolves around the sun today. Kreutz sungrazing comets are usually found in SOHO images. A SOHO camera works by simulating total solar eclipses: A hard occulting disk blocks out sunlight, revealing curved features in the outer atmosphere and other square objects such as comets. To date, 4,108 comets have been detected in SOHO images, with this comet being the 3,524th Kreutz constellation seen.

Around the time the eclipse statue was erected, the comet was traveling at about 450,000 miles per hour, about 2.7 million miles from the surface of the sun. The comet was about 50 feet in diameter – about the length of a semitruck. It then disintegrated into dust particles due to intense solar radiation, a few hours before reaching its closest point to the Sun.