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A comet that has delighted backyard astronomers in recent weeks after an unexpected eruption has now grown larger than the sun. The sun remains by far the most massive object in the solar system, with an extended influence of particles that reaches all the planets. But the comparatively tiny Comet Holmes has released so much gas and dust that its extended atmosphere, or coma, is larger than the diameter of the sun.
Nobody knows why Holmes erupted, but it underwent a similar explosive brightening in 1892.
The Hawaiian astronomy team writes in a press statement: "This amazing eruption of the comet is produced by dust ejected from a tiny solid nucleus made of ice and rock, only 3.6 kilometers (roughly 2.2 miles) in diameter."