Astronomers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have used the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) in Hanle, Ladakh, to photograph the Comet P12/Pons-Brooks.
The photograph of the Comet P12/Pons-Brooks was taken on November 21.
According to IIA, this comet has recently attracted much attention from the astronomy community and the media due to its many outbursts of gas and dust and has been dubbed the Devil Comet or the Millennium Falcon due to its appearance.
It added that the comet will become brighter in the coming months and may even become a naked eye comet.
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks was discovered in 1812 and orbits the Sun with a period of 71 years. During its earlier approaches to the Sun, astronomers had observed multiple ejections of gas and dust from its nucleus, which typically gave it an appearance of being horned.
“This approach seems no different. The comet has had four outbursts already since July, each of which released a few billion kg of gas and dust from inside its surface and made it briefly brighten by almost 100 times”, said Margarita Safonova, an astronomer at IIA who made the observations and produced this image.
The latest outburst, believed to be eruptions of built-up gas from cracks in the icy crust due to heating by sunlight, was as recent as November 14, said IIA.
This comet will pass closest to the Sun on April 21, 2024, and will have its closest approach to Earth on June 2, 2024 (when it will be 1.5 times the Earth-Sun distance away from us).
It is expected that this comet will be easily seen with small telescopes or binoculars, or even with the naked eye at that time.
“Comets always hold great fascination for all of us, and we will photograph this comet with our telescopes in the coming months to share its journey with everyone”, said Niruj Mohan Ramanujam, head of the outreach section at IIA.
This comet was observed by Margarita Safonova, Pallavi Saraf, Manjunath Bestha and Pramod Kumar of IIA. The Himalayan Chandra Telescope in Hanle, Ladakh, is a part of IIA’s Indian Astronomical Observatory, and is operated remotely from the IIA CREST Campus in Hoskote, Karnataka.