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Devil Comet to make closest approach Sunday

Devil Comet to make closest approach Sunday

Devil Comet

The comet known as Pons-Brooks or the “Devil Comet” will make its closest approach to Earth on Sunday, June 2, 2024. Some have reported seeing part of the comet early today, June 3, 2024. This celestial event occurs only once every 71 years, making it a rare opportunity for astronomers and space enthusiasts to observe the comet. Pons-Brooks is one of the brightest periodic comets in our solar system.

It resembles Halley’s Comet, which appears near Earth every 76 years. The comet earned its devilish nickname due to its occasional outbursts that create a horseshoe shape, which some observers describe as “horns.”

The comet made its closest pass to the sun in early April, coinciding with a total solar eclipse. During this period, Pons-Brooks was easily visible with binoculars or a telescope and faintly visible to the naked eye under perfect conditions.

As it approaches Earth, approximately 143 million miles away, the comet will be much dimmer. Observers will require at least binoculars to see it. Unfortunately, the comet will only be visible in the southern hemisphere during its closest approach.

Pons-Brooks was first discovered in 1812 by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons. It was rediscovered in 1883 by British-born American astronomer William Brooks.

Pons-Brooks to pass Earth Sunday

The comet bears both astronomers’ names after Brooks confirmed it was the same one Pons had discovered through orbital calculations. The unique shape of the comet remains an enigma to scientists. Pons-Brooks has experienced several outbursts over the past eight months, causing gas and dust to eject.

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These outbursts are somewhat unusual in frequency but are believed to be a usual occurrence for the comet. Astronomers are keen to uncover more details about the comet’s rotation rate. Pons-Brooks has a rotation period of 57 hours, which is longer than expected.

Scientists want to determine if the jets of material released from the comet affect this rotation. The comet’s distinctive look might be due to overlapping events or simply our perspective, according to Dr. Teddy Kareta, a postdoctoral associate at Lowell Observatory.

Observing these events offers valuable insights into the nature of comets and the conditions in the early solar system. The return of the Devil’s Comet presents a unique opportunity for astronomers to utilize modern instruments and techniques, providing insights that were inconceivable during previous observances. This celestial event is a rare treat for astronomers and space enthusiasts, reinforcing the extraordinary nature of our solar system.

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