Last spotted in 1954, the spectacular ‘Mother Of Dragons’ comet returns after almost 71 years

The rare green ‘devil comet’ is visible from the northern hemisphere and won’t approach Earth again for the next 70 years.

A galactic brilliance flitting through the sky; a glowing spectacle dripping with sherbet palettes and flaming hot tails; call it anything, but comets have stirred the curiosity of humans for millennia. In the present day, the vista of another comet, called “Mother of Dragons,” can be observed glinting in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, the European Space Agency reports.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | richard bartz
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Richard Bartz

Also known as the “devil comet” or “12P/Pons-Brooks,” this is a ‘Halley-type’ comet or a short-period comet with an orbital period lasting nearly seven decades. The “Mother of Dragons” comet is supposed to have a nucleus about 30 kilometers in diameter. The central blob of this celestial object is an amalgam of dust, gas, and ice, named by scientists as “cryo-magma,” which translates to “ice lava” from Greek.

What makes the comet so unique is a phenomenon visible every 71 years—the ‘cryovolcanic eruptions.’ In this process discovered in the 19th century, the comet spews extraordinary outbursts of gas and dust as it wiggles through the inner solar system, giving the central blob a picturesque neon-green glow.

But how did it get the name “Mother of Dragons”? There’s a reason why this name has been assigned to this comet. According to the European Space Agency, the comet appears with a distinctive “horned” shape, due to which it is compared with the “kappa-Draconids,” a small annual meteor shower that is active around November to December. And hence, its name.

Image Source: Comet of December 1680 (Kirch), 1681. (Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Image Source: Comet of December 1680 (Kirch), 1681. (Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)

There’s a backstory even behind the scientific name of the comet, “12P/Pons-Brooks.” This name is a compound of the names of the two most prolific comet observers of all time. One is the French astronomer Jean Louis Pons (1761–1831) and the other is the British-American astronomer William R. Brooks (1844–1921). According to ESA, Pons made 37 visual comet discoveries between 1801 and 1827, using telescopes and lenses designed by himself. On the other hand, Brooks made a total of 27 comet discoveries in his lifetime.

The “Mother of Dragons” comet will reach its closest point to Earth in June 2024. However, by this time, it won’t be possible to observe the comet from the Northern Hemisphere. Late March and early April are the best opportunities for astronomy fanatics and stargazers. “The comet will brighten a bit as it gets closer to the sun, and it should be visible to the naked eye low in the west about an hour after sunset,” Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, and Davide Farnocchia, a navigation engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told CNN.

Image Source: A man with a telescope watches the night sky as Comet NEOWISE appears over the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on July 19, 2020 northwest of Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Image Source: A man with a telescope watches the night sky as Comet NEOWISE appears over the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument on July 19, 2020 northwest of Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

“You should go to a location away from city lights and with an unobstructed view of the western horizon,” they suggested. “It would be advisable to use a pair of binoculars, since the comet may be hard to locate without them.” On April 21, the comet will be closest to the Sun, USA Today reported, offering a vibrant glow in the night sky.

The last time it passed through Earth was in 1954, and it won’t be seen again until late 2090s. “It will grow fainter and fainter again as it travels towards the outer solar system and won’t approach the Earth again until 2095,” astronomer Jessica Lee told MailOnline.

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