Adrian Dening's Stars Over Somerset

    Monday 1st to Sunday 7th April 2024

    The coming week is a good opportunity to go hunting for faint deep-sky objects as during the hours of darkness, the Moon will be below the horizon and so not causing any light pollution. The clocks will have just moved forward and we are now running on British Summer Time BST - all the times I quote for the next six months will be in local time to keep it simple.

    Let's start with a comet - those icy visitors from the far reaches of the Solar System. Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks could even be just visible with the naked eye at a magnitude of around +4.8 at the beginning of April. If you venture outside just after dark, say around 9pm and look towards the west, Jupiter will be easy to spot. To the right of Jupiter will be the constellation of Aries, just about to set below the horizon. The comet will be very close to the bright star Hamal in Aries.

    The "12P" in the comet's name indicates that it was the 12th comet to have the periodic nature of its orbit calculated and it takes 71 years to complete a full orbit, this time reaching "perihelion" when it is closest to the Sun, later in April. Although it is believed that the comet was first observed way back in the 1300s, it was officially identified by French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons in 1812. Its existence was then confirmed by William Robert Brooks in 1883 who, along with Jean-Louis, was an avid comet-hunter.

    If you have brought your telescope outside to try and see the comet's tail, there is also an opportunity to observe planet Uranus, which will be located a little above Jupiter. It will have a magnitude of about +6.0 so will not be visible with the naked eye.
    Screenshots courtesy of Stellarium
    12P/ Pons-Brooks image courtesy of Wikipedia
    Copyright Adrian Dening and Radio Ninesprings 2024

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