Massive comet with outbursts of brightness makes its approach toward Sun

Giant Comet Exhibits Spectacular Brightness Flares as It Nears the Sun

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Astronomy enthusiasts have a rare chance to witness a comet that seems to sport devil horns as it brightens and dims on its journey toward the Sun. NASA has announced that Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is on its way to its closest encounter with the sun in its 71-year orbit. This path takes it from as far out as Neptune’s orbit to as close as Venus’s orbit. However, due to the orbit’s tilt, there’s no risk of it colliding with Earth. The comet, measuring 18 miles across, has been observed numerous times over centuries, especially noted for its sudden outbursts of gas.

Jean-Louis Pons, who discovered 37 comets between 1761-1831, first spotted what he described as a “shapeless object with no apparent tail” on July 12, 1812. Over the following month, the object became bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, although it remained dim. In a striking discovery, 3 NEW MOONS HAVE BEEN FOUND ORBITING URANUS AND NEPTUNE.

A composite image reveals Comet Pons-Brooks in three distinct colors, showcasing its ever-changing ion tail in light blue, its outer coma in green, and a spiral of red-glowing gas around the coma. This image was captured by Jan Erik Vallestad and is credited to

By August of the same year, the comet became the brightest object observed in the sky, featuring a split tail. William R. Brooks, another comet observer who lived from 1844-1921, stumbled upon the comet on September 2, 1883. It was later realized that both Pons and Brooks had observed the same comet, 71 years apart, leading to it being named Pons-Brooks.


A sky chart shows the changing position of Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks throughout March. You can spot the comet in the west-northwest as soon as the sky darkens. It moves lower as the month progresses, according to NASA.

NASA explains that bursts of gas and dust from beneath the comet’s surface cause it to brighten. As the comet approaches between March and April, these gas outbursts could make it bright enough to be seen with the naked eye under dark skies, especially by the end of March.

An image featured on NASA’s astronomy picture of the day page shows Comet Pons-Brooks with a light blue tail, a green outer coma, and a spiral of red glowing gas surrounding the coma. Astronomers believe the spiral may result from gas expelled by the comet’s slowly rotating nucleus.

For those eager to catch a glimpse of the comet, NASA advises looking low in the west-northwest part of the sky at the end of evening twilight, near the constellation Pisces. An interesting coincidence places the comet about 25 degrees from the Sun during the total solar eclipse on April 8, though its brightness to observers that day, when the Moon obscures the Sun, remains uncertain.

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