Discovering Comets Using SOHO
We have already seen that some of the most spectacular comets in the last two centuries have been sungrazers: those large comets that pass remarkably close to the 5,800 K solar surface. With an inverse fourth power law applying to the brightness of a comet relative to its distance from the Sun it is easy to see how even small cometary chunks can become very bright when close to the solar surface. Of course, even the most resourceful Earth-bound amateur astronomers cannot discover comets using backyard telescopes when they are within a few degrees of the Sun, even if some very bright comets have, historically, been first noticed in bright twilight before sunrise or after sunset. Under no account whatsoever should bright comets (or Mercury and Venus for that matter) be hunted for when the Sun is above the horizon. The Sun might look fairly dim when close to the horizon but it still pumps out a scary amount of heat in the infrared. Even a brief glimpse of the Sun through binoculars or a telescope will result in instant blindness and even staring at the Sun with the naked eye is bound to cause retinal scarring. The eye has no pain sensors, so when you are being blinded you will not be in agony; you will just initially be dazzled and then be walking around with a Labrador in harness for the rest of your life.