Devil Comet makes closest pass to Earth Sunday morning

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Comet Pons-Brooks, also known as the “Devil Comet,” will be making its closest pass by Earth during the overnight and early-morning hours on Sunday, June 2. This rare event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as the comet only graces our part of the solar system every 71 years. Similar to the famous Halley’s Comet that visits Earth every 76 years, Pons-Brooks is one of the brightest periodic comets in our solar system.

Some observers have dubbed Pons-Brooks as the “Devil Comet” due to its occasional outbursts that create a horseshoe shape resembling “horns.” Interestingly, some have even likened its shape to the Millenium Falcon from the Star Wars films. Scientists are still puzzled as to why the single tail of the comet splits into two, a phenomenon that appears to occur as the comet approaches the sun and its tail begins to form and elongate.

Discovered in 1812 by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons, the comet was not initially met with much enthusiasm, as Pons described it as “a shapeless object with no apparent tail.” However, it was rediscovered in 1883 by British-born American astronomer William Brooks, who realized it was the same comet through precise orbital calculations. As a result, the comet carries both Pons and Brooks’ names.

As Pons-Brooks reaches its closest point to Earth, approximately 143 million miles away (1.5 times farther than the sun), it will appear much fainter, requiring binoculars for observation. While the comet was visible with binoculars or a telescope during its brightest phase in early April, it is now only visible in the southern hemisphere, having dipped below the horizon for stargazers in central Ohio in May.

For those in the southern hemisphere, locating the constellation Orion and then looking under it to find Lepus the Hare will lead to spotting the comet at the heart of Lepus. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to witness the “Devil Comet” in all its glory.