Indian Himalayan Chandra Telescope captures mesmerising Devil Comet in all its glory | Tech News

Indian Himalayan Chandra Telescope captures mesmerising Devil Comet in all its glory

Indian Himalayan Chandra Telescope captures Comet P12/Pons-Brooks, a 350,000 km behemoth, revealing its dynamic outbursts and upcoming dazzling display near Earth and the Sun.

| Updated on: Nov 30 2023, 19:55 IST
Can Comets seed life in planets? This study makes astonishing claim
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
1/5 Recently a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy developed mathematical models through which they analyzed how comets could theoretically deliver major life components to other planets. This research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.  (NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery)
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
2/5 The findings from the research can help scientists in future missions to find other planets on which life can possibly exist. According to a report by author Richard Anslow from the University of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy said, "We're learning more about the atmospheres of exoplanets all the time, so we wanted to see if there are planets where complex molecules could also be delivered by comets." (Pixabay)
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
3/5 Researchers analyze that there might be various challenges on rocky planets near red dwarf stars, also called M-dwarf stars. These stars are the center of research for scientists who are working on exoplanets.  (Pixabay)
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
4/5  Richard Anslow further said, "It's possible that the molecules that led to life on Earth came from comets, so the same could be true for planets elsewhere in the galaxy." Isn't it fascinating? If this theoretical research proves to be true, scientists will be able to solve multiple mysteries of the Universe together. This research paper sheds light on the potential of comets to provide the initial prebiotic inventory required for the origins of life on exoplanets. (Pixabay)
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
5/5 Do you know the difference between comets, asteroids, and meteors? These three have always been a matter of discussion among space scientists. According to NASA Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun. About comets, NASA explains that these are large objects made of dust and ice that orbit the Sun. They are known for their long, streaming tails. These comets are said to be the leftovers from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. When a space rock enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it is called a meteor. (Pixabay)
Comet P12/Pons-Brooks
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Indian Himalayan Chandra Telescope captures stunning image of Comet P12/Pons-Brooks, a celestial marvel with an atmosphere having a diameter of 350,000 km. (@IIABengaluru)

In an amazing celestial feat, astronomers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have snapped a breathtaking image of Comet P12/Pons-Brooks, also known as Devil Comet, using the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle, Ladakh. Often referred to as the 'Devil Comet' or likened to the iconic 'Millennium Falcon' due to its distinct appearance, this cosmic wanderer, discovered in 1812, orbits the Sun every 71 years. Recent observations have revealed a surge in its activity, marked by multiple outbursts of gas and dust that have significantly heightened its luminosity.

The captured image is a composite of individual exposures employing three different colour filters. The comet's swift movement across the sky results in a displacement of stars in each exposure, tinted by the corresponding filter colours, reported.

Central to the Indian Himalayan Chandra Telescope's photograph is a luminous arc, representing an outburst from the comet's coma, accompanied by a darker lane, the shadow of the comet's nucleus cast on the surrounding gas. The comet's expansive atmosphere, forms a spherical halo and boasts an impressive diameter of 350,000 kilometres, underscoring the dynamic and volatile nature of these ancient celestial travellers. The Comet itself is actually over 11 miles wide.

Astronomical Insights

Margarita Safonova, an astronomer at IIA, highlighted the comet's heightened activity since July, marked by four significant outbursts, each releasing billions of kilograms of material and causing the comet's brightness to surge nearly a hundredfold.

The latest burst of activity on November 14 is believed to have resulted from solar heating, causing subterranean gas to erupt through the icy surface. As Comet P12/Pons-Brooks gears up for its closest approach to the Sun on April 21, 2024, and its nearest encounter with Earth on June 2, 2024, it promises to offer a spectacular celestial display. At its closest, it will be just 1.5 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, potentially visible to the naked eye or, at the very least, through binoculars or small telescopes.

Niruj Mohan Ramanujam, the head of outreach at IIA, emphasised the universal fascination with comets and the institute's commitment to documenting this particular comet's journey for public viewing.

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First Published Date: 30 Nov, 19:55 IST