Sun. May 26th, 2024

How Australians can view the rare ‘Devil Comet’ before it disappears for 70 years

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May12,2024
From this weekend, stargazers will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the ‘Devil Comet’ — a rare celestial event.
As the comet approaches the sun, it is gradually becoming more visible, and is set to be visible for several weeks — if you know where to look.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is the Devil Comet, and how did it get its name?

The so-called Devil Comet is a periodic comet named 12P/Pons-Brooks, which orbits every 71 years.
Jonti Horner, professor of astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland, said the comet was given its nickname due to unusual behaviour in 2023.

“It threw off something like 10 million tonnes of ice and rock and dust and debris all in one go, so that

meant that you had this single burst of gas and dust around the comet temporarily,” he said.

“It gave the comet in the sky this very unusual shape … to many people, it made it look like the comet had horns, and a couple of articles talked about it being a devil comet because it looked a bit demonic.”

When will the Devil Comet be visible in Australia?

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist from the Australian National University, said the comet will be at its perihelion — its closest point to the sun — on 22 April in Australia.
“When it is closest to the sun, this is when the most heat is on the comet, and the ice turns to a gas, which is what we see glow around the comet,” Tucker said.
The comet will be relatively low in the sky at this point, and the moon will be bright, which Tucker says means this will not be the best viewing time.

“From ANZAC Day (25 April), the comet will be higher in the sky, and also the moon won’t interfere, so that is your best chance to see it.”

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks known as the Devil Comet is seen over the horizon in Spain

The so-called Devil Comet is a periodic comet named 12P/Pons-Brooks, which orbits every 71 years. Source: Getty / Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket

Horner said the comet will be visible early in the evening, shortly after sunset.

“It’s visible in the early evening after the sunset at the minute, by 6.30 in the evening. It’s only about five degrees above the horizon, and it’s setting by 7pm and then it’s gone.”

“It is going to gradually, over the coming weeks, get a little bit higher in the sky every evening … so therefore will get a little bit more visible.”

How can I view the Devil Comet?

While the comet may be visible to the naked eye, it is best viewed through binoculars or a telescope.
Horner said the comet would also be a good photography opportunity for those with a high-quality camera.
“Whilst it is visible with the naked eye, it’s not spectacular with the naked eye; it’s like a glowy blob down near the horizon,” he said.

“I think for this one, it’s actually going to be better as a photography target than it is for something to look at with your eyes. So a camera can pick up a lot more than your eyes now.”

Vanessa Moss, an astronomer at CSIRO, said while it is not yet clear how bright the comet will be, it would be worth trying to catch a glimpse.
“Any celestial event, whether it is a comet passing through the night sky or a transient meteor shower or perhaps an eclipse, is a great chance to look up at the sky and remind ourselves about our place in the universe,” she said.

“Those hoping to catch a glimpse should look (or point binoculars) in the direction of the western horizon just after sunset throughout the rest of April, and search for a fuzzy blob near Jupiter.”

When will the Devil Comet next be visible?

The comet orbits every 71 years.

Are there any other celestial events on the horizon?

Comet C/2023 A3, also known as Tsuchinshan-ATLAS, is due to pass around September or October 2024.
The comet was discovered in 2023 and is expected to be spectacularly bright.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is also expected to peak in early May.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “How Australians can view the rare ‘Devil Comet’ before it disappears for 70 years”
  1. As an astronomy enthusiast, I find the ‘Devil Comet’ fascinating! It’s incredible to witness nature’s wonders like this. I can’t wait to catch a glimpse of it in the night sky before it disappears for another 70 years.

  2. As an astronomy enthusiast, I can’t wait to witness the Devil Comet in the night sky. It’s fascinating how celestial events like this can captivate our imagination and awe. Looking forward to experiencing this rare phenomenon!

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