'Devil Comet' Appears in Night Sky Until Early April

Mar 26, 2024

comet with a diabolical nickname is blowing past our cosmic region at present. And if you don’t get around to seeing it now, you may have to wait until you’re very old to get a second chance.  

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is more widely known as the “Devil Comet.'' It will light up the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere until April 2. Then, it is projected to vanish into the daytime heavens. But a total solar eclipse is scheduled to take place six days later. And those who live in the eclipse's path will likely still get to see the Devil Comet. In fact, they may see it along with Jupiter and Venus, too. After that, the comet will fly far into space. It won’t return for 71 years.  

Astronomers say the final days of March offer the best chance to view the Devil Comet. 

People should be able to view the comet in the low western sky roughly an hour after sunset, said two scientists in an email to CNN. They are Paul Chodas, of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, and Davide Farnocchia, of NASA. Chodas and Farnocchia said viewers should go far enough away from big cities to see the comet clearly.   

It’s possible to see the comet without visual aids. But experts advise using binoculars to make the object simpler to find.   

Pons/Brooks got its nickname because of its unique horns-like horseshoe shape. The shape, experts say, is caused by the Devil Comet’s frequent bursts of gas and ice. The comet was first discovered in 1812 by Jean-Louis Pons. He was a French astronomer. That discovery was confirmed 71 years later, in 1883, by American astronomer William Brooks. 

Reflect: If a new comet was discovered, and you won a contest to name it, what are a few ideas you might suggest?

Image of Devil Comet courtesy Sven Kreiensen on Wikimedia Commons.

The fact that the Devil Comet could be visible to some viewers during the total solar eclipse on April 8 could best be described as _______ of the article. (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. the central theme
b. the main idea
c. a supporting detail
d. the main argument
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