12P/Pons-Brooks Comet approaching, when to catch its spectacular display in the sky

An astronomical spectacle is headed our way as the colossal Devil Comet, known for its ice volcano and distinctive horns, makes its way toward Earth. While this massive celestial visitor might seem ominous with its fiery moniker, experts assure that it poses no danger to humanity. Let us explore the fascinating world of this enigmatic comet and when it is set to light up our skies.

The Devil Comet, also known by its scientific name, 12P/Pons-Brooks, first graced our skies in 1812, with a subsequent appearance in 1883. 12P/Pons-Brooks follows a lengthy orbital path, returning to our vicinity roughly every 71 years. One of the most remarkable aspects of this cosmic traveler is its status as one of just around 20 comets with an active ice volcano.

These unique cold volcano comets contain a fascinating mix of ice, dust, and gas known as cryomagma. They are characterized by a surrounding gas that seeps out from within, creating a captivating cosmic display. 12P/Pons-Brooks is set to dazzle earthlings in mid-April 2024 when it reaches its brightest phase. At that time, it will be positioned approximately 144,158,116 miles away from Earth.

Comets are renowned for their unpredictability, especially regarding their brightness as they approach Earth.

While it might not become a household name like a total solar eclipse, 12P/Pons-Brooks is anticipated to be a splendid celestial sight, visible not only to stargazers with the naked eye but also to those with basic binoculars or a starter backyard telescope. It is a wait and see situation for sky-watchers who eagerly anticipate 12P/Pons-Brooks’ arrival. Its fluctuating brilliance adds to the allure of these celestial wanderers.

12P/Pons-Brooks earned its curious moniker when astronomers identified striking horns protruding from its nucleus. These are actually tails of gas and dust that result from unusual outbursts still being studied by scientists. These outbursts are when comets suddenly become more active, expelling gas and dust at an increased rate. The comet brightens really rapidly and then sort of fades back to the brightness it had before.

And in 12P/Pons-Brooks, these are really bright and large outbursts. And this is what makes 12P/Pons-Brooks so interesting to scientists. 12P/Pons-Brooks’ nucleus stretches approximately 12.4 miles, nearly twice the size of Mount Everest. This colossal size sets it apart from typical comets, which generally measure between 0.6 and 1.8 miles in width.

This distinctiveness has generated significant excitement among both astronomers and the general public.

As 12P/Pons-Brooks’ eagerly anticipated appearance in our night skies approaches, experts recommend keeping a close watch on updates and developments related to this extraordinary celestial event. This Devil may have horns, but it brings with it a mesmerizing show that is set to light up our Earthly skies. Occasionally, the gravitational forces, orbital interactions, and cosmic collisions in outer space can disrupt the trajectory of an asteroid or comet, sending them on erratic paths that bring them close to Earth, potentially posing an impact risk.

Fortunately, the majority of these celestial objects are relatively small and do not pose a significant threat of causing harm. A volcanic comet the size of a small city exploded as it headed toward the sun, emitting a cloud of ice and gas that looks like a gigantic pair of horns. 12P/Pons-Brooks is a cryovolcanic, or cold volcano. It has a solid nucleus about 18.6 miles wide and is filled with a mix of ice, dust and gas known as cryomagma, and is roughly three times the size of Mount Everest.

The violent explosion seen by astronomers on Oct. 5 is the second in four months. Radiation from the sun heats the comet’s insides, the pressure builds up and the comet violently explodes, shooting its frosty guts out into space through large cracks in the nucleus’s shell. The explosion produced a cloud that resembles a pair of horns. Pons-Brooks was first spotted in 1812 when comet hunter Jean-Louis Pons discovered it.

The Devil Comet will reach its closest point to Earth on April 21, 2024.

12P/Pons-Brooks poses no danger to Earth. It is likely to be visible to the naked eye before it heads catapulted back toward the outer solar system. The next time it will be that close to Earth will be in 2095. The so-called Devil Comet is better known as 12P/Pons-Brooks, a short-period comet that enters the inner solar system every 71 years or so. It was discovered in 1812 and is currently over 273 million miles from Earth in the constellation Hercules, but too dim to see without a telescope.

However, it is destined to next loop around the sun in 2024, getting within Earth’s orbit, but it presents no danger. It is predicted to reach its brightest next April through June, when it may even be visible to the naked eye at magnitude +4.7. 12P/Pons-Brooks, which is about the same size as Halley’s comet, will be closest to the sun next April 21 and making its closest approach to Earth on June 2.

However, it will not cross Earth’s orbital path around the sun, so it can be no danger. 12P/Pons-Brooks has been nicknamed the Devil Comet because of its unusual horned shape during an outburst in July. During the outburst its central core, its nucleus, unexpectedly brightened and the halo of material around it expanded, possibly blocking some of it from view.

It may be that binoculars will be needed to find it.

The timing of 12P/Pons-Brooks’ latest visit to the inner solar system means it might just be visible during the next total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, which will be visible from parts of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. That creates a unique opportunity for skywatchers to potentially view the comet during totality possibly with the naked eye. 12P/Pons-Brook comes in the wake of comet 2022 E3 (ZTF), the so-called green comet, and 2020’s comet NEOWISE, but looks set to put on an extra special display.

The Devil Comet which is hurtling towards Earth and has exploded on its way from the sun has created a lot of buzz about being roughly twice the size of Mount Everest and having cloud horns, which make it appear menacing. However, although the comet is large and unusual, it does not mean that it poses any threat to planet Earth. The comet, which is called 12P/Pons-Brooks by scientists made an appearance in the skies of the Earth last time more than 70 years ago.

Judging by the comet’s brightness, astronomers estimated that the comet’s solid part or its nucleus is around 12.4 miles across, which is approximately double the size of Mount Everest. Generally, comets are between 0.6 and 1.8 miles wide, so it is big, it is an outlier, and it is rare. The comet will still remain around one-and-half astronomical units away from Earth.

The horns of the comet have been formed by tails of gas and dust released in an odd series of explosive outbursts which scientists have still not been able to understand.

It might be bright enough that you can see with your naked eye or with binoculars, but that is not because it is going to be super close, it is because it is just generally very bright. Two such outbursts were seen this year, the first occurred in July and the other earlier this month. An outburst is where comets suddenly get much more active, throwing off tons of gas and dust in a short period of time.

The outbursts have been particularly interesting because of their frequency and where they took place. As per one theory, the comet contains forms of ice which after getting exposed to the sun’s heat for the time leads to volatile explosions. However, those explosions have typically been seen closer to the sun and do not occur often. It might happen twice in five years.

The solar system is a violent place, as evidenced by the fiery history of 12P/Pons–Brooks, a monster-size comet hurtling toward the sun. For the second time in four months it has grown horns after a volcanic eruption. The flying space rock previously grew its protrusions after a magma fountain spewed from its surface in July. But destructive space rocks can not be blamed for the biggest Marsquake ever recorded, instead, scientists finally figured out that the record-breaking shaking was caused by tectonic plates shifting beneath the Red Planet‘s surface.