Green Metamorphosis: Unusual Changes Occur on the "Devil's Planet"

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks loses its "devilish" horns and acquires a green hue following a cryovolcanic eruption

Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks), 27.07.2023
Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks), 27.07.2023 / Juan lacruz, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

With Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks), referred to as the "devil's" due to its characteristic "horns" observed after volcanic eruptions, several unusual events have occurred. This city-sized comet is losing its iconic horns and acquiring a green hue after the latest cryovolcanic eruption.

Over the past few months, the comet has experienced several powerful eruptions, during which it temporarily became much brighter. These eruptions led to the formation of characteristic horn-like structures in the comet's coma - a diffuse cloud of material around it. However, after the latest eruption, the horns did not appear, which may indicate structural changes in the comet itself.

Observations show that the comet has acquired a green hue, which is due to the presence of dicarbon in its composition. This element emits green light when it interacts with sunlight.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is currently moving towards the sun and will reach its perihelion, the closest point to the sun, on April 24, 2024. After that, it will head towards the outer part of the solar system and will not return to the inner areas until 2094.

What is Known About Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks)

Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks) is a periodic comet that was discovered in July 1812 by Jean Louis Pons and rediscovered in 1883 by William Robert Brooks. Its rediscovery by William Robert Brooks in 1883 served as the basis for its dual name.

This comet is notable for its relatively long orbital period around the Sun, which is about 71 years. It is one of the long-period comets whose orbit is significantly elongated due to the gravitational influence of planets.

The comet has a nucleus consisting of ice and cosmic dust. As it approaches the Sun, the comet becomes active, evaporating its icy components and creating a bright glow and tail.

Like many comets, 12P/Pons-Brooks is of significant interest to scientists, as it provides information about the early solar system. Studying its composition can give clues to the conditions under which our solar system formed.

The next closest approach to Earth is expected on June 2, 2024, when the comet may be visible to the naked eye, offering astronomers a unique opportunity to study it.

Other Cryovolcanic Comets That Have Attracted Astronomers' Attention

Comet Pons-Brooks (12P/Pons-Brooks) is not the only cryovolcanic comet under astronomers' observation. Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, significantly larger than 2P/Pons-Brooks, attracts astronomers' attention with its activity.

Over the last year, this cryovolcanic comet erupted several times, ejecting huge amounts of ice and gas into space. A particularly large eruption occurred in December 2022, when a million tons of these substances were thrown into space.

In April 2023, scientists were able to accurately predict one of such eruptions for the first time based on a previously noticed increase in the comet's brightness. This was a significant achievement in the study of the behavior of cryovolcanic comets.

Comets That Will Be Visible in the Coming Months

In the coming months, astronomers and starry sky enthusiasts will be able to observe several comets. The green comet Nisimura, which recently attracted attention, is now moving away from Earth and will not be visible again for 400 years.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinshan will reach its closest point to Earth on January 29, 2024. This event will make it clearly visible from the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, even through binoculars.

Comet 144P/Kushida will be available for observation starting from mid-December. Binoculars or small telescopes can be used to view it.


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