Spotlight on massive comet that will be able to be seen with the naked eye!

March 12, 2024

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comet 12p pons brooks by tim jackson cheltenham
Comet 12p/Pons-Brooks by Tim Jackson, Cheltenham, UK

The Mission Astro crew are excited to try and view the Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks this month! The comet is set to exit the Andromeda constellation and head into Pisces this week, but not before an encounter that will take it about 2° north of star Delta Andromedae.

Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks is one of a handful of bright comets in the sky in 2024 that have got stargazers and astronomers excited! 12 P/Pons-Brooks is predicted to brighten from mag. 7.1 to 5.2 throughout March, the latter value taking it very close to naked-eye territory!

12P is a comet that’s best viewed in the evening sky.

Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks dates to remember

Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks starts its track in March just north of the Great Square of Pegasus, within the constellation Andromeda. As the sky gets properly dark from the centre of the UK, it’ll be around 24° above the west-northwestern horizon. The comet then heads southeast, brightening as it goes.

On Tuesday 12th March, Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks is just shy of 2° north of mag. 3.2 Delta (δ) Andromedae, zipping past this star over the following evenings before exiting Andromeda and entering Pisces just before midnight on Thursday 14th March. It will then pass through the ill-vague northern fish of Pisces, tracking southeast to arrive at a position close to mag. 2.0 Hamal (Alpha (α) Arietis).

On the evening of Sunday 31 March, comet 12P/Pons–Brooks lies less than half a degree from this star. The expanding evening twilight will cause issues at the end of the month, Hamal being just 10° above the west-northwestern horizon as true darkness falls.

Moon and planets throughout March 2024

The Moon moves through the region in the middle of March, but as a thin waxing crescent it shouldn’t become an issue until Monday 18th March, moving out of the way again around Tuesday 26th March.

Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks will have bright Jupiter and less bright Uranus nearby, especially towards the end of the month. With the Andromeda Galaxy in the mix too, there’s an opportunity for astrophotographers to snap a stunning photo!

Have you managed to photograph the comet? We’d love to see your images!

Learn more about comets and space rocks

In stage 1 of Mission Astro, The Escape From The Blue Marble: Dodgeball, we look at space rocks! We explore their dangers and their importance, investigate what happens when they hit our planet and examine some magnificent craters here on earth! We also discover how we can find and track space rocks, hopefully before they hit earth – hence the name DODGEBALL!

Not only that, but we also have two fascinating experts joining us on this journey: Dr Natasha Almeida, Curator of Meteorites at the Natural History Museum, and Jonathon Tate, Director at The Space Guard Centre.

Mission Astro are delighted to have donated £1000 to Project Drax. The aim of Project DRAX is to install and operate a 24-inch (61 cm) Schmidt Camera (it would be the largest telescope in Wales) at The Spaceguard Centre to conduct a wide field sky survey to detect Near Earth Objects and other transient phenomena!

Start your interstellar mission with Dr Sarah Crick today. If you have any questions about this post or our services, please email us at:

[email protected]

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References
  • Image Credit: Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks captured by Tim Jackson on 5 March 2024 from Cheltenham, UK.
  • BBC Sky at Night Magazine March 2024
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