Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has brightened by about 100 times in one night and assumed a strange shape reminiscent of the famous Star Wars “horseshoe” spacecraft piloted by Ian Solo.
Credit: Gianluca Massi/Virtual Telescope Project
The night between 20 and 21 July is far away comet It suddenly became a hundred times shining Curiosity took over Horseshoe shapeshow a coma With two “horns” sticking out from behind the core. For some, the unusual appearance reminded the silhouette of Millennium Falconfamous space ship drive it Ian Solo in World star Wars. The wonderful orb has been immortalized by an astrophysicist Gianluca Massey On the night of July 23 at 23:49 Italian time (21:49 Coordinated Universal Time – UTC) from the Observatory Virtual Telescope Project From Manciano (Grosseto), of which the researcher is Scientific Director. “The horseshoe shape is unbelievable,” Massey commented on his personal Facebook page.
The protagonist of this burst of brightness – called a phenomenon not yet fully understood outburst – was the culprit 12P / Bones BrooksHalley’s comet has a periodicity of approx 70 years old. The frozen body will reach rock bottom – Closest point to the sun – April 21, 2024After about a month and a half, June 2will be found in rock bottom, that is, the closest point to Earth, at a distance of no less than 230 million km. Between the end of April and the beginning of May it will reach a apparent size – any brightness For an observer from Earth – from 4.5. This means that the culprit will become visible to the naked eye, given that the human eye’s observational limit is magnitude 6. Remember that the scale of magnitude is inverse; The lower the values (even negative), the brighter the object. the sunfor example, has a pronounced magnitude – 26.7, while the magnitude Siriusthe a star open from skyhe – 1.46.
So we should expect in the first months of next year a delicious treat Astronomical displaybut for those who possess telescope It has already started, precisely because of the sudden and sudden increase in brightness. like Reported by Sky & Telescope The explosion jumped in magnitude from Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks from 16.6 to 11.6, which means it gained 5 points, which is equivalent to a 100-fold increase in brightness. Thanks to the explosion, a telescope with a diameter of approx 15 cm.
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Dr. Terry Lovejoy explained that the formation of the “horns” in tree leaves “It could be caused by the comet’s nucleus blocking the northward flow of expanding material.” The object is currently located more than 530 million kilometers from Earth, far beyond the orbit of Mars, but as shown in the coming months, it will continue to approach and increase in brightness/visibility. It is said that new explosions capable of beautifying the show cannot happen.
Those who have an instrument of suitable dimensions and wish to observe the comet these days can point it in the direction of the comet’s head Constellation Draco; In fact, the orb would soon enter it and travel there for the next few weeks. The star map above, obtained using Stellarium, can help you pinpoint your exact location without planetariums or celestial coordinates on hand.
Comet 12P / Pons-Brooks, discovered by a French astronomer in 1812. Jean Louis PonsIt has a period of about 70 years, so it can be considered as observablelifetime opportunity to many of us. In the coming months, the best conditions will appear, and if they keep their promises, they will be visible even without tools, at least in areas that suffer little. light pollution. All that remains is to wait for the slow but steady approach of the Sun and our planet.
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