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Comet “Devil’s Horns” is heading towards Earth – 12P/Pons-Brooks explodes again

Comet “Devil’s Horns” is heading towards Earth – 12P/Pons-Brooks explodes again

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

Updated from Tuesday, November 21, 2023 at 12:00 PM: Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks received “devil horns” as a result of its explosion, and has now exploded for the fourth time. The race towards the sun and Earth continues at a speed of about 64 thousand kilometers per hour. It will reach its closest point to the sun on April 21, 2024, and it will reach its closest point to Earth on June 2, 2024.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is a cold volcanic comet, which is why it reacts more violently to the Sun’s heat than other comets. The heat causes the solid ice inside the comet to sublimate directly into gas. If enough pressure builds up inside, the comet’s outer shell “bursts,” cracks form and material escapes into space. Thus appeared the comet’s unusual coma, which resembled “devil horns.” It also ensures that the comet reflects more sunlight.

First report on Sunday, November 19, 2023: 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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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)