It’s hurtling towards us at thousands of miles per hour
Beware the ‘devil comet’: Huge space rock three times the size of Mount Everest that is racing towards Earth has sprouted ‘horns’, scientists say
- Devil comet is exploding as it hurtles towards us at thousands of miles per hour
- 12P/Pons-Brooks is getting more volcanically active as it gets closer to the sun
A massive ‘devil’ comet more than three times the size of Mount Everest has exploded again as it races towards Earth.
The space rock, called 12P/Pons-Brooks, is about 18 miles in diameter and described as a ‘cold volcano’ because it violently ejects ice and gas.
These explosions create a trail of material as it hurtles through space at thousands of miles an hour, and look much like its own pair of devil horns.
The comet, first discovered in 1812, is set to reach its closest point in its orbit to Earth in June 2024, although thankfully it won’t get close enough to pose a danger to humans.
When this close approach occurs, 12P/Pons-Brooks is expected to be visible to the naked eye as a faint star-like blob with a hazy tail.
According to an astronomer, the comet erupted on October 31 – the second time in the space of a calendar month
Arizona-based amateur astronomer Eliot Herman said the comet abruptly brightened almost 100-fold on October 31 and continued to get brighter in the following days
12P/Pons-Brooks: Key facts
Discovered: July 12, 1812
Orbital period: 71 years
Type of comet: Cryovolcanic
Last perihelion: May 22, 1954
Next perihelion: April 21, 2024
Nucleus diameter: 18.6 miles (30 km)
Comets consist of a nucleus made up of ice, dust, and small rocky particles, surrounded by an outer ‘coma’ – a hazy cloud of gases.
12P/Pons-Brooks is what is known as a cryovolcanic – or cold volcano – comet, which means it exhibits volcanic activity.
But instead of spewing out molten rock and lava like a volcano on Earth, a cryovolcanic comet releases a mixture of gases and ice.
When a cryovolcanic comet gets closer to the sun – like 12P/Pons-Brooks is doing now – it heats up and builds pressure in the nucleus.
The pressure continues to build until nitrogen and carbon monoxide explodes and flings out icy debris through large cracks in the nucleus’s shell.
These gaseous streams can form distinctive shapes when viewed through a telescope, such as devil horns, also described as a horseshoe or the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.