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A scene in the night sky over Germany: “The brightest comet in years”

A scene in the night sky over Germany: “The brightest comet in years”

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12P/Pons Brooks is a periodic comet with an orbital period of 71 years. It meets the classical definition of a Halley-type comet. © Imago / Christian Group

Comet 12P/Pons Brooks flies over Germany. With a little luck it can be seen in the sky with little effort. Where to look and when.

IMPORTANT – Objects flying in the sky that you can observe? I love people! It is fitting that a new phenomenon is currently being discovered above our heads. The strangely named comet 12P/Pons-Brooks – named after its discoverers Jean-Louis Pons and William Robert Brooks – will be visible in the German night sky until April 2024. What should you do to catch a glimpse of it?

'Brightest comet in years': 12P/Pons-Brooks can be seen over Germany

In fact, 12P/Pons-Brooks is not a first-time offender. It appears again approximately every 71 years. This is the length of the celestial body's orbital period. The comet was first seen in 1812, and then several other times. Perhaps soon you will be one of the people who managed to catch a glimpse of it.

“This is a great phenomenon for amateur astronomers,” explains Professor Dr. Susanne Hottemeister, Director of the Zeiss Planetarium Bochum (NRW). “It is the brightest comet in two years,” however, the expert tempers the expectations of those who think they only have to raise their heads in the evening and experience a wonderful sight. “It's very difficult for the general public to find out,” Hottemeister says.

Because the comet will be very far from Earth in March 2024. This makes it appear very small, and that will not change much in April. The advantage of this is that the light is focused in a small area. Thus, the pons brooks can be clearly separated from the surroundings, and does not “blur” the light in the surroundings. But the disadvantage is that it is barely noticeable at first glance due to the distance and noticeable small size.

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It's hard to see with the naked eye: Comet P12/Pons-Brooks is something special

Professor Dr. says: Susan Hottmeister certainly does, even if such observations do occur in exceptional cases. But the P12/Pons-Brooks is still something special. Because it doesn't take much to locate a celestial body.

Even a simple telescope can be enough to be successful in good conditions. According to the expert, the evening hours when the sky is clear are the best times to make the discovery. “You then have to see the comet as a small, diffuse nebula, perhaps a bit elongated,” Hottemeister explains.

Uwe Pilz of the Star Friends eV association provides easy-to-follow instructions on the association's homepage on how and when to view the comet until March 31. “I recommend first identifying the stars Alpha Andromedae and Alpha Arietis using a rotating star map or an app,” the amateur astronomer writes. Because: The comet moves exactly between these two stars in the period between March 13 and 31. This way, interested sky explorers can orient themselves and get a guide on exactly where to look. Even small binoculars are enough to find pons brooks.

“Great Phenomenon”: This is the best way to find a comet in the sky

“You should start observing when twilight is well advanced, but the sky is not completely dark yet,” Belz explains further in his instructions. The ideal time is between 7:30pm and 8pm. As the month progresses, the comet becomes brighter as it approaches the sun. However, it also means that it is already set when there is complete darkness. “But because it's bright and compact, you can still see it,” says Bales, concluding his short guide for amateur astronomers.

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By the way, Americans are particularly lucky. Because there will be a large solar eclipse in North America on April 8. During this the comet can also be seen. The closest approach to Earth will be P12/Pons-Brooks in June 2024. However, residents of the Northern Hemisphere will not benefit from this. Because the bright comet can only be detected from the Southern Hemisphere.

There are more exciting discoveries to be made in the sky. This means that people in Germany have a good chance of enjoying the Northern Lights in 2024. At the beginning of March, a strange report spread. I am referring to space debris that could have fallen.