‘Once in a lifetime’ comet spotted from Derbyshire garage roof

  • By Jude Winter
  • BBC News, Derby

Image caption,

Comet Pons-Brooks is one of the brightest known periodic comets

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

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

The National Space Centre (NSC) say it is a once, or twice, in a lifetime chance to see it, as it only passes by the Earth every 71 years.

Mr Mason said: “I won’t ever see it again, so I’m delighted I captured it”.

“I had to put my smart scope on top of my garage as its visibility was so low on the horizon”, he said.

Also known as the “Devil’s Comet”, it was discovered in 1812 by Jean-Louis Pons and again by William Robert Brooks on its subsequent appearance in 1883. Accordingly, it is named after the two discoverers.

‘Naked-eye visible’

The comet, which is bigger than Mount Everest, is made of dust and ice. That means it leaves its bright green tail behind it as it is heated by the Sun.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is also classed as a cryovolcanic comet – meaning it has an icy volcano that erupts dust, gases and ice when pressure builds inside it as it is heated.

The NSC said it could become “naked-eye visible” over the coming weeks, with it being at its brightest on 21 April. It will become less visible due to the increasing daylight hours into the evening.

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

If you miss the comet this time, you’ll have to wait until summer 2095 to catch it again.


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