Space show: “Devil's Comet” 12P/Pons-Brooks flies towards Earth with Andromeda in the background

by alex

Astrophotographers around the world are hunting for good shots of the phenomenon

Shooting toward Earth, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is currently streaking past the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy, piqued by astronomers and creating conditions conducive to spectacular astrophotography. This comet, also known as the Devil's Comet, is 17 kilometers wide and orbits the Sun in an elliptical orbit every 71 years. This cryovolcanic (ice) comet erupts when solar radiation cracks its icy shell or core, releasing a mixture of ice and gas — cryomagma. When this happens, the cryomagma expands the 12P coma, forming a cloud of gas and dust around the core, causing it to appear much brighter for several days.

In July 2023, astronomers noticed 12P “flare up” for the first time in almost 70 years, and since then similar eruptions have occurred regularly. During the early phases of its eruptions, Comet 12P had an unusual shape resembling a horned devil's head due to a notch in the nucleus. However, after the latest eruptions, these «horns» disappeared. Also, new photos of the comet show that it has acquired a green glow, which is rare and caused by the high content of dicarbon in the coma and tail.

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On June 2, 12P is expected to make its closest approach to Earth after its flyby around the Sun in late April. The comet will then return to the outer region of the Solar System and spend most of the next 70 years there.

Now 12P is moving into the solar system, it can be seen in the same part of the night sky as the Andromeda Galaxy — a large spiral galaxy located approximately 2.5 million light years from the Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the naked eye in clear skies, but viewing 12P,  which is 10 degrees below Andromeda, will require a telescope, camera or binoculars.

Космическое шоу: «комета Дьявола» 12P/Pons-Brooks летит к Земле на фоне Андромеды

Project «Virtual Telescope» took several long exposure shots of 12P. Astrophotographers are hoping to capture photos of the comet during the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, when 12P will be close to the occult Sun. If the eruption occurs shortly before the eclipse, the comet will be visible to the naked eye during the total eclipse.

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