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A comet with “devil horns” approaches Earth

A comet with “devil horns” approaches Earth

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Violent explosions cause “devil horns” to appear on Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks. However, this is not a bad omen.

FRANKFURT – Comets were seen as bringing bad luck. If you see a comet in the sky, this is considered a bad sign. Those times are over – fortunately, otherwise you would have to visit soon Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks It has been interpreted as a particularly bad omen. The comet has developed “devil horns” several eruptions ago, and has nicknames such as “Devil’s Comet” and also “Millennium Falcon” because it bears a certain resemblance to a spaceship from the “Star Wars” films.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is a so-called “periodic comet” that approaches the Sun every 71 years. This will happen again in the spring of 2024, when the comet approaches first the Sun and then the Earth. It is already on its way to Earth. It reaches its closest point to the Sun, called perihelion, on April 21, 2024. 12P/Pons-Brooks is then located 0.78078 astronomical units (about 117 million km) from the Sun.

Comets are “dirty snowballs” made up of ice, dust and gas. (Avatar) © IMAGO/Kyodo News

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks approaches the Sun and Earth

It will take some time for the comet to reach its closest approach to Earth: it won’t happen until June 2, 2024, and for a short while it will be just 1.55 astronomical units (about 232 million kilometers) from Earth. As the comet approaches the Sun and Earth, it is said to become brighter – with a little luck you can see it with the naked eye. However, small binocular vision is more likely.

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There is a problem when observing the comet: Shortly after reaching perihelion, 12P/Pons-Brooks will bid farewell to the northern hemisphere. It can only be seen from the southern hemisphere as it approaches Earth.

If you want to see the comet before it becomes invisible from the Northern Hemisphere, look for it in April. At the beginning of the month, it will be in the constellation Aries – but it will also be close to the sun, so it will only be visible at dusk. From April 12 to 14, the comet can be tracked using the bright planet Jupiter located near it. At its closest point to the sun, the comet is located in the constellation Taurus.

12 F/Pons Brooks
Periodic cold volcanic comet
1812 by Jean Louis Ponce and 1883 by William Robert Brooks
April 21, 2024 at 0.78078 AU
June 2, 2024 at 1.55 AU

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is an ‘old acquaintance’

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is not a new celestial body for astronomers. It was discovered by Jean-Louis Pons in July 1812. The second part of its name comes from William Robert Brooks, who rediscovered the comet in 1883. However, earlier sightings of the comet have been recorded, for example from 1385 and 1457.

12P/Pons-Brooks is a cold volcanic comet. Gas and ice accumulate inside and cause the comet to explode violently. This is how the “devil’s horns” formed by the summer comet were created.

In the fall of 2024, another comet will likely be visible to the naked eye: Comet C/2023 A3 (Tsuchenshan-Atlas) could put on a big show, but this is by no means certain. (unpaid bill)