May 21, 2024

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Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks: How you will see it as it approaches the Sun

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks: How you will see it as it approaches the Sun

Since it visits our area once every 71 years, March and April will likely be your only chance to admire the green comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, one of the brightest comets, which is barely visible to the naked eye.

Comets were formed from material left over from the creation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. It is composed mainly of ice and dust and is mainly concentrated in the Oort Cloud, a spherical cloud of icy objects believed to surround the solar system at a distance of up to 200,000 times Earth's distance from the Sun.

Comets that leave this region and head toward the Sun heat up and release gases that form a long tail behind them, which can sometimes be seen from Earth.

The 12P/Pons-Brooks star, with a core 30 kilometers in diameter, increases in brightness as it approaches perihelion, its lowest distance from the Sun, which it will reach on April 21.

A few weeks later, on June 2, it will reach its lowest distance from Earth, about 232 million kilometers.

The comet was named after the French astronomer Jean-Louis Bonne, who discovered it in 1812, and fellow British-American William Robert Bruce, who collected more observations in the next pass in 1883.

Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks in a telescopic image on February 6 (Michael Jagger)

How will you see it?

From now until the end of March, the comet will be visible with binoculars or a telescope in or near the constellation Andromeda. Space.com website.

Look just after sunset about 20 degrees above the horizon to the west-southwest.

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Alternatively, you can see the comet on the southeastern horizon a few hours before dawn.

The apparent movement from day to day will be greater and greater as the comet approaches the Sun.

By mid-March, it will reach an apparent brightness of about 6, which means it will be easy to see through binoculars (the lower the number, the brighter it is).

By the end of the month, its magnitude will likely reach 4.5 or 5, so that it will be visible with the naked eye against the background of the constellation Mars.

After late March, 12P/Pons-Brooks will be so close to the Sun that it will be completely lost in its glare.

It will appear again after perihelion on the 21stHa April, but now it will only be visible from the Southern Hemisphere.

The comet already shows sporadic flares that increase its brightness due to the emission of gas. However, this is not expected to significantly affect apparent size.

For those with binoculars or a telescope, the 12P/Pons–Brooks tail will be blue-green due to solar radiation giving rise to gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and diatomic carbon.

If you still can't observe the comet live, you can follow its passage on its website Virtual telescope projectIt is an electronic service provided by the Bellatrix Observatory in Italy.

The next opportunity will come in 2095.