- A volcanically active comet is approaching planet Earth
- She grew huge “horns” again
A rare space body is flying towards Earth. The massive volcanic comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which grows giant horns during eruptions, will be visible with the naked eye or ordinary binoculars thanks to its high brightness.
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A comet the size of a city with huge horns is flying towards Earth
From the looks of it, we can slowly start looking forward to a spectacular space show. A giant comet, three times the size of Mount Everest, has exploded again. The latest eruption, the second in the past month and the third since July, is a reminder that it is becoming more volcanically active as it continues its journey into the interior of the solar system.
“2P/Pons-Brooks (12P) is a cryovolcanic – or cold volcanic – comet. Like all other comets, this icy object consists of a solid core filled with a mixture of ice, dust and gas and surrounded by a nebulous cloud of gas called a coma,” Live Science writes.
However, unlike non-volcanic comets, radiation from the Sun can superheat the interior of 2P/Pons-Brooks (12P), causing pressure to build up so intense that it eventually ruptures the core’s envelope from the inside, spewing its icy innards into space. These eruptions cause the comet’s coma to expand and brighten as it reflects more sunlight toward Earth.
When 2P/Pons-Brooks (12P) explodes, her coma creates the iconic devil “horns”. “These arise because the large comet nucleus, which measures about 17 kilometers in diameter, has an unusual ‘notch’ on its surface that blocks the outflow of cryomagma into space and causes the coma to grow in an irregular shape,” the researchers say.
After 71 years, it will fly by the Earth again
Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks has one of the longest known orbital periods of any comet. It should reach its closest point to the Sun (perihelia) during its current return on April 21, 2024.
It will come closest to Earth on June 2 of the same year, when it will be visible in the night sky with the naked eye. Nevertheless, its distance from our planet will not be small – specifically, it will be 231 million kilometers.
Preview photo source: NASA, source: LiveScience