The Sungrazer Project

Fact: Over half of all known comets were first discovered by Sungrazer Project contributors! These comet discoveries have shaped our modern understanding of comet orbits, composition, dust properties, evolution, and fragmentation. 

Sungrazer comets also help scientists learn about the Sun. These comets - as you might guess - pass very close to the sun. They act like small solar probes as they plunge through the Sun's atmosphere.

Join the Sungrazer Project community and you might discover the next sungrazing comet!

Go to Project Website


18 and up







What you'll do

  • Join the friendly race to be the first to find new sungrazing comets!
  • Learn how to access the latest images from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) or NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft missions and look for moving objects.
  • Join a research effort largely driven by amateurs.


  • Time to get started: Hours to days. Hunting for SOHO comets requires a lot of patience, is very competitive, and requires learning new skills and systems.
  • Equipment:
    • Laptop or desktop computer (project is not well suited to tablets or smartphones)
    • Strong internet connection
  • Knowledge: No prior knowledge is required. A Guide and Comet Hunting Tutorial are provided.

Get started!

  1. Visit the project website
  2. Click “Get Started” to access the project overview page with frequently asked questions and introductory videos.
  3. Follow the Guide and Comet Hunting Tutorial Guide and Comet Hunting Tutorial.

Learn More

If you’re new to sungrazing comets, check out the Official Guide to SOHO Comet Hunting

Typical of LASCO C3 data, the image is rendered in blues. A dark “occulting disk,” which is what we call the structure in the telescope that blocks the direct (blinding) sunlight, blocks the Sun. A white circle on the occulting disk indicates the size of the Sun itself. We can see the corona radiating outward in uneven streaks. Stars dot the field behind the sun. A white line representing a comet streaks through space just below and to the right of the Sun. As it reaches and passes behind the occulting disk, a white burst erupts from the other side.
When comets approach the sun, some are destroyed. In this video clip from LASCO C3, a bright comet approaches the sun from lower right. After it vanishes behind the occulting disk, a burst of bright light erupts from the upper left of the disk.
In bold, red capital letters are the words The Sungrazer Project, stacked one above the other. To the right of the word "sungrazer" is a red circle, standing in for the Sun. A streak of white extends from the "u" in "sungrazer" all the way across the middle of the Sun, getting thicker from left to right, just like the streak of a comet might appear in project data.
Like all SOHO data, this image is rendered in reds. we see the sun and occulting disk in the lower left of the image. In the upper right, we see two series of three small boxes. The smallest three call attention to bright spots within them, namely, two fragments and the 96P/Machholz comet, descending from top to bottom. The larger set of thing, which appear in the middle of the frame, are magnifications of the area enclosed by the three smallest boxes. In these, we can more clearly see the two fragments, which appear as bright red spots against the red background, and the 96P/Machholz comet, which looks like a bright round spot of white with a faint fuzz of bright red trailing behind it.
Other comets break apart on their approach to the sun. Here we see two fragments (the two smallest boxes in the upper half of the image and their magnifications in the center top of the image) that were discovered by Sungrazer Citizen Scientists as they raced ahead of comet 96P/Machholz. This was the first time we had seen new fragments from this comet. Comet 96P/Machholz returned in January 2023 with MUCH more exciting data, and provided several new fragment for discovery by project participants!
Credit: ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
Like all SOHO data, this image is rendered in reds. A dark red occulting disk in the center of the square image blocks the bright orb of the sun. A white circle with a diameter of one third of the occulting disk indicates the size of the Sun itself. We see the sun’s corona and solar outflows emanating from behind the disk, showing bright white adjacent to the circle and cooling to dark oranges at the edge of the image. Five fat white streaks and sixteen skinny streaks, all in the bottom half of the image, represent the tracks of sungrazing comets.
Compilation/stacking of several of SOHO's brightest Sungrazers over the past 20+ years.
Credit: Sungrazer volunteer Robert Pickard
Three images are stacked on top of each other, each showing the same same comet in the same area adjacent to the sun at four-year intervals. The top image is from September 5, 1999, at 00:06 Universal Time. The middle image is from September 8, 2003, 08:30 Universal Time. The bottom image is from September 10, 2007, 23:06 Universal Time. In each image, the comet is outlined by a red square.
And others return again and again.
Credit: ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

Get to know the people of Sungrazers!

Portrait photo of a smiling man wearing glasses and a red hard hat and standing in front of very large equipment in a lab

Sebastian “Seb” Hoenig

Citizen Scientist/Professor, University of Southampton, England

Portrait photo of a man standing in a lab.

Quanzhi Ye

Recipient of the Harold Urey Prize