Comet Larger Than Everest About to Appear in UK Skies

The skies above the UK are about to witness a celestial marvel as comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, larger than Mount Everest, graces the night skies above, offering a rare spectacle for British stargazers. Here’s the full story.

Brief and Welcome Distraction

Though the news from the UK recently can be a little bit of a drag, be it accusations of antisemitism or Islamophobia, the chop and change of MPs from one political party to another, or the ceaseless speculation over the upcoming elections, now and then, something happens to offer a brief and welcome distraction. This distraction comes not from the world of politics, sport, or celebrity but from the vast expanse of our solar system. 

A rare visitor is poised to grace the skies above the UK: the comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, a celestial body larger than Mount Everest. The comet will be making a grand return to the inner reaches of our solar neighbourhood following a hiatus spanning over seven decades. 

Feverish with Anticipation

Both professional and amateur astronomers are feverish with anticipation as they predict 12P/Pons-Brooks’s imminent visibility to the naked eye, offering a rarely-seen celestial wonder to UK residents. The wandering nomad, classified as a Halley-type comet, completes its orbital sojourn once every 71.3 years. 

Named after the eminent astronomers Jean-Louis Pons and William Robert Brooks, who first beheld its cosmic dance in 1812 and 1883, respectively, 12P/Pons-Brooks is now set to illuminate the UK’s night sky.

Nestled deep within its icy core, estimated to span approximately 30km (20 miles) in diameter, this enigmatic comet awakens with fervour as it approaches a heat source or is heated by pressure. 

Magnificent Display

Once it heats up, the comet erupts in a magnificent display of dust, gases, and ice as it approaches the sun, set to captivate UK astronomers and stargazers with its otherworldly presence.

12P/Pons-Brooks unleashed a dazzling outburst last year, catapulting its luminosity a hundredfold and becoming dubbed the “Devil Comet” due to the eerie horned shape formed from its haze. 

While already glimpsed with its distinctive green hue, 12P/Pons-Brooks is poised to grow ever brighter in the weeks ahead, painting a vivid streak across the night skies of the UK. 

4.5 Magnitude

Dr. Paul Strøm of the University of Warwick stated, “The comet is expected to reach a magnitude of 4.5 which means it ought to be visible from a dark location in the UK.”

He continued, “The comet moves from the constellation of Andromeda to Pisces. As it does so it passes by bright stars which will make it easier to spot on certain dates. In particular, on 31 March 12P/Pons-Brooks will be only 0.5 a degree from the bright star called Hamal.”

However, capturing a celestial rarity such as 12P/Pons-Brooks demands keen observation from UK enthusiasts. 

Half Decent Binoculars

Dr. Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society underscores the utility of sky-mapping apps and basic instruments like small telescopes or even a “half-decent pair of binoculars.” With these tools and a sense of wonder, British astronomers can embark on a nighttime quest to behold the comet in all its glory.

For the eager skywatcher in the UK, pursuing celestial marvels demands patience and perseverance. With optimal viewing conditions in the northern hemisphere, UK astronomers advise seeking clear, moonless evenings and watching the sky from locations free from light pollution. 

As twilight yields to darkness, the comet should become visible to those who set out to find it. 

Welcome Distraction

As 12P/Pons-Brooks graces the skies above the United Kingdom, it offers more than just a welcome distraction from the cost-of-living crisis or the humdrum of political life—it provides a window into the past, both of our solar system and of the British and French astronomers who first noted our astronomical visitor.

Drifting alongside asteroids, comets like 12P/Pons-Brooks offer invaluable insights into the beginning of our solar system. They shed light on the conditions that would, one day, lead to life on the insignificant third planet that might look up and take note of it. 

For Dr Massey, the rarity of such an event, witnessed only briefly since its discovery, serves as a poignant reminder of our fleeting existence amid the wonder of the cosmos. Massey said, “That in itself is quite a nice thing to reflect on.”

The post Comet Larger Than Everest About to Appear in UK Skies first appeared on Pulse365.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / AstroStar.

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