April 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

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The “Devilish Comet” is scheduled to swing by the Sun and be visible during the eclipse

The “Devilish Comet” is scheduled to swing by the Sun and be visible during the eclipse

A 'devilish comet' known for its occasional outbursts is currently visible in the night sky, and lucky stargazers may be able to spot the celestial body during a long-awaited solar eclipse next month.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has been nicknamed the “devil's comet” because its eruption last year left it with two distinct trails of gas and ice shaped like devil's horns.

Currently, the comet can be seen from the Northern Hemisphere with binoculars and telescopes. But by the end of the month, the comet may be visible with the naked eye as it swings through the inner solar system and reaches its closest approach to the sun in mid-April.

A comet usually has a core of dust, gas and ice surrounded by bright clouds of gas known as the coma. These celestial bodies are “frozen remnants of the formation of the solar system” and some of the largest can be tens of miles across. According to NASA.

Sunlight and solar radiation can heat a comet's nucleus, sometimes causing violent explosions, as happened several times with comet 12P/Pons-Brooks.

The comet can be seen in the early evening from the Northern Hemisphere by looking toward the western-northwest horizon. It is expected to brighten during the end of the month and will be visible if local conditions are clear and dark until early May.

If the comet flares up significantly in the coming weeks, the “Devilish Comet” will likely be visible during the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8. Only those are in the path of totality — a band that runs across the country from northeastern Texas to Maine. As the Moon will completely block out the sunlight – a double sky show will be treated, and the outlook for such a rare simultaneous event remains uncertain.

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However, there should be high chances of spotting the comet alone in the evening sky.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks was discovered in 1812 by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons. It was observed again in 1883 by the British-American astronomer William Brooks. It is rare to see the comet because it takes 71 years to revolve around the sun.