A massive cryovolcanic comet, three times the size of Mount Everest, has exploded in space and is now making its way towards Earth. There is no cause for alarm, however, as scientists have said that it won’t collide with Earth.
The comet, named 12P/Pons-Brooks, is a cryovolcanic comet, an Earth.com report said. Such comets have a solid core that spans an impressive 18.6 miles (30 km) and comprises a mix of ice, dust, and gasses known as cryomagma. Their nucleus is surrounded by a cloud of gas called a coma.
When solar radiation heats its insides, the pressure causes the comet to explode and shoot debris of ice through the cracks in the nucleus’ shell, a Live Science report explains. This is the second explosion for Pons-Brooks within just four months.
On 5 October, astronomers detected an enormous outburst from 12P, after the comet became dozens of times brighter because of the light reflecting from its expanded coma, according to the British Astronomical Association (BAA). As per Spaceweather.com, over the next few days, the comet's coma expanded further and developed peculiar horns.
The size of the comet is similar to the renowned Halley’s comet. The last time Pons-Brooks was visible to people on Earth last time without telescopic aid was in 1954. As it has a 71-year sun orbit, it is often called a ‘Halley-type comet,’ Earth.com explains.
Located within the Hercules constellation, the comet is estimated to approach its nearest point to Earth in April 2024 and will be visible to the naked eye on 21 April. As per Earth.com, its peak brightness is predicted to be visible on 2 June, 2024. Following this, the comet will return in 2095.
Currently, another space event is lighting up the night sky. The Orionid meteor shower, which is active between 26 September to 22 November, is predicted to peak on 20-21 October, Earth.com reports. This meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris of Comet 1P/Halley, commonly known as Halley's Comet.
About 20 meteors per hour can be expected, moving at a speed of 41 miles per second. The Orionids are visible in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.