Punctual Phenomenon : Missed seeing the Pons-Brooks comet? No problem. Just catch it in 2095.

Pons-Brooks is a devil horned comet prone to unexpected flares in brightness that made its closest approach to the sun, known as perihelion, recently.

In recent months, stargazers have been closely observing the comet's journey.

The celestial traveler sweeps into view every 71 years and was last visible to people on Earth in the 1950s.

'' It's an exceptional comet,'' said Eliot Herman, a retired biotechnologist at the University of Arizona and an astrophotographer who has been tracking Pons-Brooks for several months.

'' Not only does it get brighter as it comes closer to the sun, but also the comet is changing drastically day to day.''

The comet, a green ball of ice, caught the attention of the public last July, when it looked as if it had sprouted horns after an outburst through its dusty atmosphere.

Some likened the comet's shape to the Millennium Falcon spacecraft that Han Solo and Chewbacca use in the Star Wars franchise.

The comet had a series of additional outbursts in the fall, including one on Halloween.

By December, Pons-Brooks had hints of a tail. The feature became longer and more prominent in early March as the comet sailed closer to the sun.

Some hoped it might flare brightly enough to be seen during the total solar eclipse on April 8, but it was not visible to the unaided eye during the event.

The comet is now ducking below the horizon, making it lost to the northern sky.

People in the Southern Hemisphere may be able to see it through May, though it will be much dimmer. After that, Pons-Brooks will bid farewell to stargazers on Earth for another seven decades as it embarks on another journey around our sun. [ Katrina Miller ]


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