April 19, 2024

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A 'once in a lifetime' comet has been spotted from the roof of a Derbyshire garage

A 'once in a lifetime' comet has been spotted from the roof of a Derbyshire garage
  • Written by Jude Winter
  • BBC News, Derby

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Comet Pons Brooks is one of the brightest periodic comets known

A 'once in a lifetime' comet has been spotted from the roof of a garage in Derbyshire.

Paul Mason, 58, snapped images of Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in Melbourne on Monday using a smart telescope on the roof of his garage.

The National Space Center (NSC) says it's a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it, because it only passes Earth every 71 years.

“I'll never see it again, so I'm glad I picked it up,” Mr Mason said.

“I had to put my smartscope above my garage because its visibility was so low on the horizon,” he said.

Also known as “Devil's Comet”, it was discovered by Jean-Louis Pons in 1812 and later rediscovered by William Robert Brooks in 1883. Accordingly, it was named after these two discoverers.

“Visible to the naked eye”

The comet, which is larger than Mount Everest, is composed of dust and ice. This means that it leaves its bright green tail behind when the sun heats it.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is also classified as a cold volcanic comet, meaning it has a cryovolcano that erupts dust, gases and ice when pressure builds inside it as it heats up.

The National Security Council said the planet may become “visible to the naked eye” in the coming weeks, and will be at its highest on April 21. It will become less noticeable due to increased daylight hours in the evening.

To get a glimpse of the rare comet, the NSC said: “Use binoculars or a telescope to look for a 'mysterious star' to the right of Jupiter, low in the west as the twilight deepens.”

If you miss viewing the comet this time, you will have to wait until the summer of 2095 to catch it again.

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