Comet Pons-Brooks closest to the sun on April 21

Multiple images of a comet making an angled line toward the hills.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | John Ashley shared this compilation of images of the “Devil Comet” on April 6, 2024. John wrote: “Comet Pons-Brooks sets over Kitt Peak National Observatory after dusk. Fifteen individual frames photographed at 1-minute intervals and stacked together.” Thank you, John!

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See Comet Pons-Brooks in the evening sky

Now is the time to try to spot Comet Pons-Brooks – nicknamed the Devil Comet – in the evening sky. Look west just after sunset. The comet’s closest approach to the sun (perihelion) is on April 21, at which time it’s located in front of the constellation Taurus. It’ll most likely be too dim to see without optical aid, but who knows? Comets can brighten when nearest the sun.

As the comet moves away from the sun, it will soon drop out of sight from the Northern Hemisphere. But the Southern Hemisphere should be able to see the comet still, heading across the sky toward Orion. It’ll be near Rigel on May 19 and 20.

On June 2, 2024, when the comet is closest to Earth, it will be dimmer because it’s farther from the sun. But you should still be able pick it up in binoculars. On that date, the comet will be in front of Lepus the Hare.

Then Comet Pons-Brooks will head back into the outer solar system, where it will remain until it returns in some 71 years.

Comet Pons-Brooks has had outbursts

As the comet has moved closer to the sun, it’s undergone periodic outbursts.

The first outburst was on July 20, 2023. It brightened from magnitude 16–17 to magnitude 11–12. Astrophotographers caught the comet outburst, which resulted in a peculiar “horned” appearance, like a devil. It resembled the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars.

The comet continued to have outbursts, including on October 5, November 1 and 14 and December 14 and January 18, 2024. Even as recently as early April, it appeared to be in outburst.

Images during the outbursts

As you can see from the images on this page by EarthSky community photographers, the comet showed a distinct C or hooked shape.

Comet Pons-Brooks: Starfield showing a horseshoe or C-shaped fuzzy bright object, plus an inset of the object at bottom right.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eliot Herman used the Utah Desert Observatory and Sierra Observatory to capture these images of Comet Pons-Brooks on July 21, 2023. Eliot wrote: “Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in outburst has resulted in a striking coma. The images are from iTelescopes T24 and T2. The T2, which captured the inset image, shows the green coma. It will be interesting to see how the coma evolves in the next days and whether there will be more outbursts.” Thank you, Eliot!
Black background with a small, dim, fuzzy, C-shaped object surrounded by scattered stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, captured this image on July 26, 2023. David wrote: “Last night I was able to capture this image of Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, which recently increased dramatically in brightness as a result of an eruption that produced a debris cloud. The shape of the comet due to the debris cloud is reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame.” Thank you, David!
Stars showing as streaks of light and a fuzzy, glowing U-shaped object with bright center.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Filipp Romanov used a remote iTelescope in the Utah desert to capture this image of Comet Pons-Brooks. Filipp wrote: “On July 28 [2023], I observed comet 12P/Pons–Brooks, after its outburst.” Thank you, Filipp!

If you would like to share a photo you took of Comet Pons-Brooks, send it to us at our Community Photos page.

Comet Pons-Brooks in history

We’ve seen this comet in the past. Jean-Louis Pons and William Robert Brooks both spotted it in the 1800s. The comet now bears the names of those two sky observers.

And even before that, Chinese astronomers observed it as far back as the 1300s.

Comet Pons-Brooks during the eclipse

During the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse, the comet was near the sun. While it was too dim to see with the eye alone, some astrophotographers caught it in their images.

Star chart showing the eclipsed sun and Venus below it. Jupiter and the comet are above them.
During the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, the sky darkened enough to see Venus and Jupiter. Some astrophotographers caught Comet Pons-Brooks as well. Image via Stellarium/ Kelly Kizer Whitt.

Amazing images!

We’ve been getting amazing images of Comet Pons-Brooks. Do you have one to share? Submit it to us! And check out this dedicated photo gallery of Comet Pons-Brooks images.

A comet with a green and round fuzzy head with a thin tail flowing away in a field of tiny scattered stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steven Bellavia in Southold, New York, captured this image of Comet Pons-Brooks on February 25, 2024. Steven wrote: “This comet might be visible to the unaided eye during the total solar eclipse, being 24 degrees east of the sun and only 6 degrees west of Jupiter.” Thank you, Steven!
A comet on the left side and a spiral galaxy on the right side of a starfield.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Steven Bellavia in Southold, New York, captured this view of Comet Pons-Brooks and the Andromeda galaxy on March 11, 2024. Steven wrote: “Although the comet is only 250 million kilometers (155 million miles) from Earth, with Andromeda 23 trillion kilometers (14 trillion miles) distant, they are now sharing the same part of the sky.” Thank you, Steven!
Dark, misty valleys, a foreground tree, long-tailed comet above, and oblique view of a glowing galaxy at top.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Petr Horálek in Revuca, Slovakia, captured Comet Pons-Brooks on March 5, 2024. Petr also captured the Andromeda galaxy along with “a distant tree, the fog illuminated by the passing cars.” Thank you. Petr!

A few more images

Mountain town at night with a comet that has a glowing head and long tail, in the sky above.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Samit Saha in Gharwan, Himachal Pradesh, India, captured Comet Pons-Brooks on February 28, 2024. Samit wrote: “During the formation of the solar system, this comet, which is nearly 3 times larger in diameter than Mount Everest, was created with an abundance of ice, rocks and cosmic dust.” Thank you, Samit!
A bright greenish fuzzy ball with a tail leading straight up, in a star field.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona, used a remote telescope in Utah to capture this image of Comet Pons-Brooks on February 25, 2024. Eliot wrote: “Even in bright moonlight, Comet Pons-Brooks is showing well as it continues to brighten. It will perhaps be visible during the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse.” Thank you, Eliot!
A long-tailed greenish comet aimed down toward the horizon with a tree in the dark foreground.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Petr Horálek in Zdiar, Slovakia, captured Comet Pons-Brooks on March 3, 2024. Petr wrote: “After 3 weeks of cloudy days, I could finally try to catch the brightening comet 12P/Pons-Brooks. Every day more and more beautiful.” Thank you, Petr!
Evening twilight sky, with Jupiter, the comet and a star annotated.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Greg Redfern was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he caught this image of Comet Pons-Brooks, low in the west after sunset. Word had circulated on April 3 that Pons-Brooks is in outburst again, making it brighter than before! And there it is! Will it still be bright tonight? \ No one can say …

Bottom line: Comet Pons-Brooks makes its closest pass by the sun on April 21. Look for it after sunset in the west; it will soon slip into southern skies.

April 21, 2024

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