A comet with horns? Yes, it’s true. On July 20, stargazers witnessed an amazing event: something exploded on the surface of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, causing its brightness to increase 100 times. The debris from the explosion formed a coma in the shape of two horns, further adding to the intrigue of this celestial spectacle.
Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has a long history of explosive behavior. It was first discovered in 1812 by Pons and then rediscovered in 1883 by Brooks. This explosive comet makes its journey into the inner solar system every 71 years, and at least seven significant eruptions have been recorded since the 19th century. This pattern of eruptions suggests that the comet may be a cryovolcanic comet similar to Comet 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann.
Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is currently beyond the orbit of Mars and is slowly moving toward the Sun. Its close approach to the Sun is expected to occur in April 2024. At that time, it is expected to become visible to the naked eye and reach 4th or 5th stellar magnitude. However, given its history of unpredictable outbursts, it is possible that it could become visible even earlier.
Amateur astronomers are advised to keep a close eye on the progress of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks. The comet is currently passing through Draco’s head, near the north celestial pole. With an astronomical magnitude of +11, it is easily observable in average backyard telescopes. Don’t miss your chance to see those distinctive horns and share your photos with us.
Scientists have long been interested in comets and their unusual behavior. In the article “Celestial Intentions: Comets and the Horns of Moses,” researchers delve into the intriguing nature of these celestial bodies. Pierre Lescodron highlights the historical understanding of comets in his book Earth Changes and Man’s Connection to the Cosmos. In the late nineteenth century, Prof. Zollner of Leipzig suggested that the self-illumination of comets could be due to electrical excitation. According to this theory, comets are not just dirty snowballs, but luminous chunks of rock.
This assumption is supported by observations made at the end of the XIX century. In the journal “English Mechanic and World of Science” on August 11, 1882 was published an article in which it was stated that physicists are increasingly inclined to believe that the self-illumination of comets and the phenomenon of their tails are associated with electrical phenomena. In 1896, Nature also published an article suggesting that the Sun’s electrical repulsion may be responsible for the formation of comet tails.
These findings refute the traditional view that comets are composed of icy debris. On the contrary, they suggest that comets are luminous rocky objects. Similarly, asteroids may not turn out to be luminous chunks of rock as previously thought. The recent discovery of asteroid P/2013 P5 with a glowing tail a million miles long has baffled the scientific community. Official explanations attributed the phenomenon to the asteroid’s rapid rotation, which causes it to eject large amounts of dust. However, this discovery hints at the blurred boundaries between comets and asteroids, calling into question our ideas about these celestial objects.
As we continue to explore the mysteries of our universe, events like the explosive ejection of comet 12P/Pons-Brooks serve as a reminder of how much we still have to discover. By studying these celestial phenomena, we gain valuable insights into the nature of comets and asteroids, shedding light on their composition and behavior. So keep your eyes on the sky and observe the wonders that await us.