A giant horned “devil” comet has exploded en route to Earth — the second time the interstellar snowball’s blown its stack in two weeks.
Named 12P/Pons-Brooks, the falling star’s latest display was caught on camera by Arizona-based astronomy buff Elliot Herman.
“Comet 12P appears to be manifesting more frequent outbursts, a new outburst only two weeks from the prior outburst is now apparent,” gushed the University Of Arizona plant sciences professor, who’s been chronicling the cosmic hailstone’s intergalactic ice capades since its inaugural outburst on July 20 (its first in 69 years up to that point).
According to Elliot, this marks the fourth blast in four months for 12P, which is a cryovolcanic — or cold volcano — comet that measures a colossal 18.6 miles in diameter, or the size of a small city.
Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, is 29,029 feet high — or about 5.5 miles.
For the uninitiated, such eruptions occur when a large level of gas and ice amasses and combusts like a frozen Coke can. This causes the comet’s frosty insides to burst forth from large cracks that form in the nucleus crust.
During prior eruptions, the arctic blast caused the coma — the cloud of gas at the comet’s center — to sprout “horns” like some sort of intergalactic Beezlebub, earning 12P the moniker “Devil Comet.”
However, astronomers have pointed out that these horns have been less pronounced during the Halloween eruption even though that phenomenon was 100 times brighter than usual.
Meanwhile, this latest eruption appeared to have an almost perfectly spherical atmosphere.
Despite this satanic space ball’s ominous shape and trajectory, there’s no need to brace for armageddon just yet.
The cosmic ice cube — which orbits around the sun every 71 years — won’t reach its closest point to Earth until 2024, whereupon it will become visible to the naked eye.
“There’s a chance that Pons-Brooks will be bright enough to see with your naked eye next spring, but it will almost certainly be bright enough to see with even a small set of binoculars or a starter backyard telescope,” said Teddy Kareta, a postdoctoral researcher at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
12P will then be catapulted back into the solar system. It won’t make its cosmic comeback tour until the year 2095.