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Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in 2024

Every ~71 years Comet Pons-Brooks returns to the inner solar system. At its perihelion, it gets a little closer to the Sun than does the Earth. You can visualize its orbit here

12P is not particularly well-placed from viewing during this apparition.* However, it has a history of unexpected outbursts that can make it 100 times brighter. The most likely outcome is that it will make an attractive binocular object. 

A finder chart for the comet in March and April is here. In April, it sets only a little bit after the Sun. Your best bet to see it is a pair of binoculars after sunset. Be sure the Sun is completely below the horizon before searching the horizon. You won’t be able to pick it out of a bright sky in any event. 

*Comets are visually ghost-like. Stars can be observed through their gas and dust tails. Therefore when a periodic comet returns, it’s called an apparition. 

Comet C2020 F3: Comet (NEOWISE) made a beautiful photographic target in July of 2020. The images in the two-page pdf were taken from Parking Structure 2 on the campus of the University of Kentucky seven days after its closest approach to the Sun. You can see the slender ellipse of its orbit here. While C/2020 F3 was a once-in-a-lifetime comet, it will return to the inner solar system in another ~7,000 years. 

Comet C2007 Q3 & NGC4651: Comet 2007 Q3 was right next door, only 1,300 seconds away at the speed of light in November, 2009. Appearing in nearly the same direction when this image was taken is a galaxy 74 million years away at the speed of light (300,000 km/s).

Telescopes are time machines: the farther away something is, the further back in time you see it. The light from NGC 4651 began its journey to Earth when dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the late Mesozoic era.

Comet 2007 Q3, warmed by its brief time near the Sun grew a tail of vaporized gas and dust. This was a one-time event for this small chunk of dirty ice. Its orbit is essentially parabolic; it made only one pass to the inner solar system before forever returning to deep space.