Light Wave


Massive ‘devil’ comet to make closest pass to earth in 2024

By Jake Beardslee · October 28, 2023

In brief…

  • Massive "Devil Comet" will make closest pass by Earth in April 2024, poses no threat
  • Comet called 12P/Pons-Brooks, with 71 year orbit, contains active ice volcano
  • Comet's horns of gas and dust earned "Devil" name in July 2022
  • Nucleus estimated at 12.4 miles wide, twice size of Mount Everest
A massive, twice Everest-sized comet called the 'Devil' will make a safe but likely dramatic pass by Earth in April 2024, the closest in its 71-year orbit, with its active ice volcano making its brightness unpredictable.  Edu INAF, photographer: Alessandro Bianconi / Wikimedia

A massive comet called 12P/Pons-Brooks, nicknamed the “Devil Comet,” will make its closest approach to Earth in April 2024, according to astronomers. Though it poses no danger, the comet’s size and brightness are remarkable.

First spotted in 1812, the periodic comet orbits the sun every 71 years. It contains an active ice volcano, meaning it leaks icy dust and gas, giving it dramatic outbursts. In July 2022, horns of gas and dust around its nucleus earned it the “Devil” moniker and comparisons to the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, said astronomer Teddy Kareta to the Business Insider.

At 232 million km away next April, the comet may be bright enough to see with the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will certainly capture it, Kareta said. Its nucleus is estimated at 12.4 miles wide, twice the size of Mount Everest, making it a true giant compared to most comets.

Kareta explained that the comet’s sporadic, bright outbursts expel gas and dust rapidly before fading again. The process intrigues scientists but makes the comet’s exact brightness upon its return unpredictable. Kareta advises following updates as its approach nears.