Rare 'Devil Comet' To Make Its Closest Approach To Earth In Once In A Lifetime Event
Rare 'Devil Comet' To Make Its Closest Approach To Earth In Once In A Lifetime Event
Celestial enthusiasts in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the exploding ‘devil comet’ aka the Pons-Brooks comet. It is seen once in 71 years.

An unusual comet with horns, known as the “devil comet,” will come closest to Earth on Sunday. People in the Northern Hemisphere haven’t seen the comet since early May, but those in the Southern Hemisphere have a better chance of spotting it with binoculars or a telescope, a report by US broadcaster CNN said.

The report said that the comet has drawn comparisons to the Millennium Falcon spacecraft from the “Star Wars” films and its explosive nature has intrigued scientists.

The comet, officially known as the Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, will make its closest pass of Earth on Sunday. It will still be 230 million kilometres away from our planet and won’t pose a risk. For reference, the sun is 149 million kilometres away from Earth.

The Pons-Brooks comet completes one orbit around the sun about every 71 years, similar to Halley’s comet because observing and studying it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It made its closest pass of the sun on April 21 coming within 119.7 million kilometres of the Sun.

“For folks down below the equator, the coming weeks and months might be their first good chance to see this thing since the 1950s,” Dr. Teddy Kareta, a postdoctoral associate at Lowell Observatory in Arizona was quoted as saying by CNN.

Two prolific discoverers, Jean-Louis Pons and William Robert Brooks, independently observed the devil comet. Pons saw it in 1812 and Brooks in 1883. The comet has likely orbited the sun many times over thousands of years.

Astronomers estimate the massive comet to be between 10 to 20 kilometres in diameter, according to Kareta and has a rotation period of 57 hours.

The rare visitor has a green appearance typical of most comets because they contain diatomic carbon molecules. These molecules absorb sunlight and emit a colour that appears green from our perspective, according to Dr. Dave Schleicher, astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Pons-Brooks recently caught the attention of astronomers due to its intriguing behaviour, which resulted in the comet having a horned appearance as it travelled through our solar system.

Over the past eight months, the comet has undergone several outbursts, ejecting gas and dust. While such events are not uncommon in comets, and other comets have taken on crescent or Pac-Man shapes, it’s challenging to determine what is typical behaviour for Pons-Brooks, the researchers said.

Comets are celestial bodies made of ice, dust and rocky material orbiting the Sun with highly eccentric trajectories. When close to the Sun they develop a glowing coma and sometimes a tail due to sublimation of ice and dust.

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