‘Devil Comet’ Will Be Visible As it Passes Earth This Year

22nd Jan 2024
‘Devil Comet’ Will Be Visible As it Passes Earth This Year

A large comet which is known for its unique appearance looks set to be visible in March as it passes relatively close to earth. The comet has been dubbed the ‘Devil Comet’ due to the flaring it undergoes, brightening the sky and looking, to some, like devil horns.

The comet is technically called Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks and was first discovered in the early 1800s. Scientists think it is 30km in diameter and orbits the Sun over the course of roughly 70 years. The last time it passed this close was in 1954. Comet 12P has a super cryogeyser, which regularly erupts and causes flaring.

The comet has a solid core and is thought to be filled with a mixture of ice, dust, and gas, called cryomagma. The nucleus is encompassed by a cloud of gas which regularly breaks away from the interior.

Scientists observing on optical wavelengths have seen the comet becoming unusually brighter at times as it comes closer to the Earth. 

The UKSA explained in a recent blog post: “Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has an intriguing history of flaring suddenly in brightness as it approaches the inner Solar System on its 70-year orbit of the Sun. Currently only visible with the aid of a telescope, this comet already appears to be up to its old tricks, significantly flaring several times over the last few months, making astronomers hopeful it will become visible to the naked eye as it moves closer to the Sun in the coming weeks.”

Scientists differ on exactly when it will be closest to the Earth, and most visible, with some estimating Sunday, 21st April 2024 as the time where it is closest. It comes in a year of cosmic events visible from UK skies, including the partial lunar eclipse and an impressive display of the Perseid meteor shower. 

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