This strange comet approaching Earth continues to transform before the eyes of astronomers – Futura

Since this summer, astronomers from all over the world have enjoyed observing the evolution of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks as it travels toward our sun. For the fourth time, starting in July, the comet’s luminosity suddenly began to increase, shining at magnitude 9 in the constellation Hercules. According to astronomers, this sudden increase in brightness is a sign of its increasingly turbulent activity as it gets closer to our star.

An increasingly active comet

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks visits us again approximately every 71 years: It is a so-called periodic comet that, due to its highly elliptical orbit, approaches the Sun before moving away again within the limits of our solar system to the maximum distance from our star of 33.8 astronomical units – beyond the orbit of Neptune. It will reach its closest point to the Sun in spring 2024 and visit us again in 2094.

The comet, which is made up of icy materials among other things, heats up as it approaches the sun, which leads to the sublimation of part of its nucleus, which changes from a solid to a gaseous state. gaseous. We are talking here about cryovolcanic activity: under the effect of the increase in pressure, the gases make their way to the surface of the comet and escape into space, forming a trail of gas and dust behind it.

Very irregular activity

While his previous bursts of activity had given him the appearance of a horned monster, this latest explosion this time transformed him into a pale green orb with a curved line of dark color running through it. The appearance of horns has been linked to the supposedly irregular shape of the comet’s nucleus, and the explanation could also apply to the formation of this strange structure; However, some astronomers offer other explanations, reports the Spaceweather website.

The curved line could actually be the shadow of a particular plume of gas, a sign that matter is escaping from a localized spot on the comet’s surface. Its activity is highly unpredictable and its appearance can change from one night to the next! It is possible to track its location live on The Sky Guide website.

This horned comet is resuming its volcanic activity!

Article by Gaspard SalomonGaspard Salomon, published on November 14, 2023

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is once again attracting astronomers’ attention, suddenly increasing in brightness. Sky enthusiasts already know that the comet’s activity has already been observed twice on its trajectory towards our sun. Its volcanic activity gives it the appearance of a horned monster and delights its observers.

For the third time since this summer, astronomers are reporting a sudden increase in the brightness of Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, shining at magnitude 12 in the constellation Hercules last November 2. Signs of gas emission caused by heating as it approaches the Sun.

Cryovolcanic eruptions that increase its luminosity

12P/Pons-Brooks was first discovered in 1812 by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons and rediscovered in 1883 by American astronomer William Robert Brooks. It is a so-called periodic comet, meaning that it completes a complete orbit (or revolution) at a relatively regular time interval. Like every 71 years, it is about to reach its closest point to the sun, which tends to heat it up as it approaches our star.

When heated, the comet’s icy core sublimes and changes from a solid to a gaseous state. This is then referred to as cryovolcanic activity: the gases make their way to the surface of the comet and escape into space, forming a trail of gas and dust behind the comet, which suddenly increases its luminosity. In the case of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, the brightness increased almost a hundredfold within a few days! The appearance of a horned monster appears to be due to the irregular shape of its core.

Unpredictable cryovolcanic activity

As it approaches the point of its orbit closest to the Sun – perihelion, which it will reach in spring 2024 – cryovolcanic activity can be expected to resume. But its activity is difficult to predict, and amateur astronomers point their telescopes at this visitor.

After reaching perihelion, 12P/Pons-Brooks will return to the boundaries of the Solar System, with a maximum distance from the Sun (or apheliaaphelion) of 33.8 astronomical units, beyond the orbit of Neptune. In 2094 it will reach perihelion again. With The Sky Guide you can follow the comet’s evolution live as well as its current position in our solar system.

Article by Nathalie MayerNathalie Mayer, published on October 17, 2023

Last July, Comet P12/Pons-Brooks caught the attention of astronomers when it suddenly increased in brightness. The researchers then explained the result of an eruption. And now she’s just done it again. Once again she has decorated herself with funny ice cream horns that make her look like the Millennium Falcon.

Comet P12/Pons-Brooks had already made headlines this summer. As it moved quietly toward Earth – it was expected to reach its closest point to the Sun in April 2024 – its brightness suddenly increased dramatically. The cause was an explosion that occurred on its surface.

Repeated eruptions on the cryovolcanic comet

Or rather, we should talk about an eruption. Because comet P12/Pons-Brooks is called a cryovolcanic comet by astronomers. It can erupt when the sun heats its core. The pressure then builds until a cloud of ice is ejected into space through cracks in the comet’s crust.

This happened last July with P12/Pons-Brooks. And this October 5th, researchers from the British Astronomical Association also announced. After another outburst, astronomers found that the comet had become a dozen times brighter. In the following days she was again decorated with some kind of horns.

Horns due to an irregular shape of the comet

Researchers believe that the peculiar shape that Comet P12/Pons-Brooks takes on at the time of these eruptions – a shape that inevitably resembles that of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars – is due to an irregularity in the shape of its nucleus. During the July outburst, its coma had expanded to 7,000 times the size of this core. And although the numbers are not yet known, this outbreak appears to have been twice as severe.

The closer Comet P12/Pons-Brooks gets to our Sun, the more flares of this type are expected.

The Millennium Falcon photographed in space? No, a huge comet that exploded!

Article by Dorian Schaepmeester published on July 30, 2023

An unexpected event has surprised astronomers who have been observing the Dragon constellation in recent days. Comet P12/Pons-Brooks experiences a sudden increase in brightness, possibly due to an explosion: the star’s halo is now adorned with a pair of glowing “horns.”

A “comet with horns”. This is the nickname given to Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks by the Anglo-Saxon media since July 19th. On that day, astronomers around the world observed an explosion on the surface of the celestial body, which suddenly increased its brightness. The event took place on the comet nucleus of 12P/Pons-Brooks, measuring 34 by 12 kilometers in diameter (i.e., similar dimensions to Halley’s Comet). His brilliance increased and exceeded the usual average by five times. Internet users have photographed the comet thanks to the Virtual Telescope project: the latter now has a peculiarity, with the highlight forming two sharp bumps that resemble horns. Passing through the solar system and currently 3.9 astronomical units (about 448 million kilometers) beyond Mars, the apparent magnitude of 12P/Pons-Brooks fell from 16.6 to 11.6 during the explosion. With a magnitude of 11.6, the comet remains invisible to the naked eye. It can still be seen with an astronomical telescope or telescope.

Immediate approach to the edge of the Earth

P12/Pons-Brooks was possibly observed in the 14th and 15th centuries and was officially identified by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons in 1812. With an elliptical trajectory, the comet’s orbital period is 71 years. It is expected to reach perihelion, its closest point to the sun, in April 2024. A few days later it will approach Earth and will then possibly be visible in the night sky, hypothetically reaching a magnitude of 4.5.

Note to astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere: P12/Pons-Brooks is currently located in the “head” of the Dragon constellation, near Ursa Minor. Due to its low brightness, the comet is only visible with powerful telescopes. Those who are very patient will have to wait eleven months to admire the object that will illuminate the sky for a few days, from April to June 2024.