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Devil Comet Steals the Show? Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks Seeks Spotlight During 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

Skywatchers, get ready for a celestial double feature! The highly anticipated total solar eclipse of April 8th, 2024, might be graced by a rare guest – the “Devil Comet,” Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks
Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

This unusual comet, known for its distinctive horns caused by gas outbursts, is currently visible in the night sky of the northern hemisphere. Comet Pons-Brooks orbits the sun every 71 years, and in 2024, it will be making a close approach to our star, reaching its perihelion (closest point) on April 21st.

This fortunate timing places the comet in the vicinity of the sun during the total solar eclipse, which will sweep across parts of Mexico, 15 U.S. states, and Canada. While the sun takes center stage during an eclipse, the darkness it creates provides a unique opportunity to see other celestial bodies.

During totality, the brightest planet, Venus, is expected to be visible on one side of the eclipsed sun. On the other side, skywatchers might be treated to a glimpse of Jupiter, the second-brightest planet. The big question is: will Comet Pons-Brooks join the celestial party?

The answer depends on the comet's brightness on eclipse day. If the comet experiences another dramatic outburst, the size of its glowing halo (coma) will increase, making it more visible. While not unheard of, a comet appearing alongside a total solar eclipse is a relatively rare event.

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Devil Comet, binoculars are recommended. Even with them, visibility will depend on the comet's brightness at the time of the eclipse.

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