"Once-in-a-lifetime" Devil Comet Will Be Easily Visible this Month

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, is passing by Earth. This rare visitor, making its first appearance in the inner solar system in over 70 years. However, if you miss it, you will have to wait till 2095.

This comet with its nucleus, measuring about 30 km (18.6 miles ) across, is currently visible in the constellation of Aries. Its current visual magnitude stands at 5.37, making it barely visible to the naked eye but easily observed with the aid of small binoculars.

The comet's distinct 'horned' appearance, which has led to its nickname as the 'devil comet,' adds to the intrigue and beauty of this cosmic phenomenon.

Comets are celestial object composed primarily of ice, dust, and rocky material that orbits the Sun in an elliptical path. 

When a comet approaches the inner solar system, the heat from the Sun causes the ice to vaporize, releasing dust and creating a glowing coma (a cloud of gas and dust) around the comet's nucleus. The coma may also develop into a tail that points away from the Sun due to the solar wind.

The best time to observe this Halley type comet, known for its spectacular outbursts of gas and dust, is during late March and early April. During this period, the comet will be visible in clear dark skies above the western horizon after dusk. 

Observers are advised to find a location away from city lights and with an unobstructed view of the western horizon to maximize their viewing experience. 

While the comet's brightness can be unpredictable, those lucky enough may catch it with the naked eye, though binoculars or a small telescope could enhance the viewing experience.

Named after prolific comet observers Jean-Louis Pons and William R. Brooks, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has a rich history of appearances dating back centuries, with records from China in 1385 and Italy in 1457 possibly documenting its journey through the night sky.

As Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks prepares for its closest approach to Earth in June 2024, enthusiasts have a narrowing window to witness this celestial marvel.

Missing this opportunity means waiting another 71 years for its return, making this a once-in-a-lifetime event for many.