Massive object 12P/Pons-Brooks, which is more than three times the size of Mount Everest, is said to have had its fourth explosion a few days ago while it was rapidly approaching Earth. This space rock, which has a circumference of around eighteen miles and is described as a frigid volcano, reportedly ejects gas and ice with fury, leaving behind a path that resembles devil horns. While there isn’t a direct danger to human safety, 12P/Pons-Brooks, which was first discovered in 1812, is getting closer to Earth in June 2024.
This close approach is expected to make the comet visible to the unaided eye, behaving like a dim star with a dim, fuzzy tail.
Comets are formed of an outer coma, which is a hazy cloud of gases, surrounding a core made up of ice, dust, and tiny rocky particles. Comets exhibit a variety of properties. As a cryovolcanic comet, or cold volcano, 12P/Pons-Brooks exhibits volcanic activity, spewing a mixture of gasses and ice rather than lava and molten rock, according to studies.
The comet heats up as it gets closer to the sun, which causes pressure to build up in the nucleus. Eventually, the release of carbon monoxide and nitrogen causes explosive events that push ice debris through cracks in the shell of the nucleus, generating unique forms that, when seen through a telescope, resemble a horseshoe or devil horns.
Arizona-based astronomer Eliot Herman reported a notable brightness rise on October 31 that indicated the appearance of horns and a fresh cryovolcanic eruption. This is the third eruption since July and the second inside a calendar month. The comet, which is known as the “devil comet” because of its horn-like appearance, became more visible after its most recent eruption.
Comets circle the sun owing to gravitational pull, much as planets do. It has been reported that 12P/Pons-Brooks circles the sun every 71 years, which is comparatively shorter than most. Their extremely elliptical orbits send them near to the sun (perihelion) and far away from it (aphelion).
As it approaches its perihelion on April 21 of the next year, 12P/Pons-Brooks, which is now speeding toward the sun and Earth at an estimated speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, might reach speeds of over 100,000 miles per hour, putting it as close as 72.5 million miles from the sun. After that, on June 2, it will get within 144 million miles of Earth. The current strategy points to further eruptions, maybe with greater intensity. Gravitational forces will drive the space rock back to the outer solar system after its closest approach; a return is not anticipated until 2095.