How to see a once-in-a-lifetime green comet: Mount Everest-sized space rock, dubbed the ‘Mother of Dragons’, visits its interior for the first time in more than 70 years solar system – and you don’t even have a telescope to see it!

Tonight the night sky will be lit up by a unique spectacle as the comet ‘Mother of Dragons’ returns to the solar system.

The 21-mile-wide comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, or Pons-Brooks for short, is making its first visit to the inner solar system in more than 70 years.

And the good news is that you don’t even need a telescope or special equipment to see this stunning spectacle.

All you need is a dark night and some patience to see the Mount Everest-sized comet with the naked eye when it reaches its brightest point on Sunday.

Dr. However, Robert Massey, deputy director of the Royal Astronomical Society, warns: ‘Don’t expect it to be blindingly bright – the kind of image you see in photos. It won’t be like that.’

The dazzling green ‘devil’s comet’ (pictured) could be visible to the naked eye over Britain tonight

The comet got its name because an eruption of the comet's ice volcanoes gave it a distinct horn-like appearance

The comet got its name because an eruption of the comet’s ice volcanoes gave it a distinct horn-like appearance

The Pons-Brooks Comet is a periodic comet, meaning its orbit takes it through the solar system on a somewhat regular basis.

It takes 71.3 years to complete a complete orbit around the sun, making it a so-called Halley-type comet that appears in the solar system every 20 to 200 years.

This means that the chances of seeing the devilish comet are only coming once or maybe twice in your life.

As Pons-Brooks returns to the inner solar system, the sun’s light will reflect on the comet’s cloud of gas and ice, making it appear to glow brighter.

The comet will reach its maximum brightness when it reaches its closest point to the Sun, or its zenith, which will occur tonight.

To see Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, look west in the night sky and find the constellation Aries the Aries, which forms a loose V-shape.  In the coming weeks it will continue to move west towards Orion, the constellation that resembles the great mythical hunter

To see the comet this weekend, look west in the 90 minutes after sunset; the comet should be below and to the left of Jupiter

Comets to look out for in 2024


This will be visible in June and July.

It may be visible with binoculars.

This comet returns every 69 years.

C/2023 A3

This comet could be bright enough to carry the title ‘Great Comet’.

It can be as bright as the brightest stars in the sky.

It will be visible in September and October.

No special equipment is required.

At this point, the comet could become bright enough to see with the naked eye, although it will still be very faint.

Dr. Massey says: ‘This is something that might be visible to the naked eye if you don’t have a moon in the sky, if there’s no light pollution and if the weather is very clear, then you might have a chance.

“But for most of us, we’re going to have to bring binoculars.”

Because it may be difficult to spot, Dr. Massey recommends using a star map or night sky app to help locate it.

Jake Foster, astronomy professor at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, told MailOnline: ‘The comet will appear low in the west after sunset and set below the horizon about 90 minutes after the sun.

‘This means it is difficult to observe, but not impossible. It is located just below and to the left of Jupiter, which will appear as a bright white dot to the naked eye.

Although the comet will be at its brightest, it can still be quite difficult to see as the brighter evenings reduce its visibility.

Mr Foster said: ‘To spot the comet you will need a clear view of the western horizon and binoculars or a telescope.

“It will also help get away from the light pollution of bright city lights.”

The comet should be visible to the naked eye as a white spot, while telescopic images like this one can reveal the swirling clouds of gas and dust surrounding its nucleus

The comet should be visible to the naked eye as a white spot, while telescopic images like this one can reveal the swirling clouds of gas and dust surrounding its nucleus

If you’re lucky enough to get a good look at the comet this weekend, you might be able to spot a detail that makes Pons-Brooks particularly special.

As the comet approaches the sun, it glows with an eerie green light that is visible through a telescope.

“The comet’s faint green glow is due to diatomic carbon molecules (essentially pairs of carbon atoms stuck together) on its surface,” Foster explains.

As the comet gets closer to the sun, the sun’s radiation breaks the bonds of the molecules, releasing energy in the form of vibrant green light.’

Pons-Brooks is also one of the few known cryovolcanic comets, meaning it regularly erupts with plumes of dust and ice.

Beneath the icy surface, the comet has a core of cold ‘magma’, made of liquid hydrocarbons and dissolved gases.

As it is heated by the sun, pressure builds up inside and eventually erupts with dramatic consequences.

12P/Pons-Brooks may appear to have a faint green glow due to the presence of diatomic carbon molecules on its surface.  These absorb energy from the sun and release it as green light

12P/Pons-Brooks may appear to have a faint green glow due to the presence of diatomic carbon molecules on its surface. These absorb energy from the sun and release it as green light

What do we know about the ‘devilish comet’ 12P/Pons-Brooks?

Mate: 21 miles (34 km) wide

Speed: 40,000 mph (64,373 km/h)

Turnaround time: 71.3 years

Associated meteor shower: Draconids in November to December

First identified: 1812

Discovered by: Jean-Louis Pons and William R. Brooks

  • The ‘devil’s comet’ gets its name from its distinctive horned appearance caused by cryovolcanic eruptions.
  • The comet also looks green due to the presence of diatomic carbon on its surface.

It was one of these outbursts that gave the comet the appearance of a ‘devil’s horn’ as a plume of dust created a second tail.

A flare-up in July 2023 also made the comet 100 times brighter from Earth, and more flare-ups are possible as the month progresses.

However, these outbursts are not likely to be large enough to make the comet significantly brighter to the naked eye.

Like many periodic comets, Pons-Brooks has a long observational history, with the first recorded observation likely dating to 14th-century China.

However, it was not until the 19th century that Pons-Brooks was recognized as a comet.

French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons, the most prolific visual comet discoverer of all time, first saw the object in 1812.

Pons’ observations were confirmed in 1883 by the British-born American comet observer William R. Brooks.

The comet is named after these two astronomers and is given the title 12P because it is the twelfth periodic comet to be discovered.

The comet is also called ‘The Mother of Dragons’ as it is believed to be the origin of the draconic meteor shower that takes place between November and December.

Other comets to see

If you don’t quite manage to see comet 12P/Pons-Brooks this weekend, there is still hope for the rest of the year.

In 2024 we will be treated to two more comets that should be bright enough to be seen with binoculars or with the naked eye.

Between June and July, comet 13P/Olbers will return to the solar system for the first time in 69 years.

This Halley-type comet won’t be the brightest, but should be visible to careful observers in the Northern Hemisphere with binoculars.

However, in September and October, stargazers will be in for a real treat as C/2023 A3 makes its way into the inner solar system.

It is believed that at its peak, this comet could rival Sirius as the brightest object in the night sky.

It will be easily visible to the naked eye and there will be good visibility throughout the month, weather permitting.

Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

A asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

a comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further outside the solar system.

a meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.

When one of these meteoroids reaches Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.

For example, when Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns up, creating a meteor shower.