Strange but true
The ice ball comes.
As if things didn’t seem horrific enough already, scientists have reported that a “horned” comet three times larger than Mount Everest exploded as it hurtled toward Earth.
The explosion on October 5 originated from Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, a cryovolcano — or cold volcano — 18.6 miles in diameter, or the size of a small city. Live Science reported. For reference, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth, is 29,029 feet, or about 5.5 miles.
This is the second time this interstellar ice cube has erupted in the past four months, with the last celestial event occurring in July. The Science Times reported.
The British Astronomical Society, which closely monitors 12P, recognized this explosion after noticing that it appeared dozens of times brighter due to light reflected from its coma – the gas cloud surrounding its centre.
For the uninitiated, such explosions occur when a large level of gas and ice combines and burns up like a frozen can of Coke, causing the comet’s frozen interior to explode from large cracks that form in the core’s crust.
In this case, the Arctic blast caused “horns” to appear in the coma like a kind of intergalactic Beelzebub, as seen in the accompanying images.
Scientists also compared the demonic form to the Millennium Falcon spaceship from the “Star Wars” film series. Space weather archive reported.
The cause of the horns is unclear, however, experts believe it could be caused by the shape of 12P’s nucleus – similar to an interstellar pasta strainer.
Richard Miles of the British Astronomical Society said: “The two horns may have been caused by a strangely shaped cryovolcanic vent with some sort of obstruction causing material to be expelled in a strange flow pattern.”
Despite the inauspicious path and shape of 12P, there is no need to prepare for a “deep impact” just yet. The celestial hailstone – which orbits the sun every 71 years – will not reach its closest approach to Earth until 2024, at which point it will become visible to the naked eye.
This comet will then be ejected back into the solar system, and will not make its cosmic return tour until 2095.
This is 12P’s second explosion since July 20, when the interstellar snowball blew off its pile for the first time in 69 years.
During this eruption, the horn-like emissions were 7,000 times larger than the comet itself.
Since then, the coma has shrunk back to its normal size, but it may attract more attention next year if it continues to erupt, which is likely to be the case, according to the Space Weather Archive.
Miles claims that Comet 12P, first discovered by Jean-Louis Pons on July 12, 1812, is one of 20 known comets that contain active cryovolcanoes.
Perhaps the most famous is 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, a volcanically active body that ejected nearly a million tons of cold magma into space last December, marking its largest eruption in 12 years.
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