Is The “Devil Comet” Heading Towards Earth? And More FAQs

When comet 12P/Pons-Brooks suddenly flared and ejected twin horns of material from its icy nucleus, it made headlines as the “Devil Comet” or the “comet with horns.” But what are the facts? Is the comet heading towards Earth—as some suggest—or where is it going? When should you look and what will you see? Here are some frequently asked questions answered by expert astronomer Dean Regas.

A Devil Comet?

There is nothing demonic or biblical about Comet Pons-Brooks. For a brief time, it looked like a comet with horns (or the iconic Millennium Falcon spaceship from Star Wars movies), but these hornlike formations are no longer visible.

Comets are loosely held-together balls of ice and dust that are exposed to tremendous heat and pressure as they approach the Sun. Geysers of material begin to emerge and form an envelope of gas around the comet called the coma. Comet comas come in all shapes and sizes.

RELATED: Comets, Asteroids, Meteors — What’s The Difference?

Is this comet heading towards Earth? How close will it come?

Is the comet heading towards Earth? Yes, but it will have absolutely no chance of hitting our planet or the Sun. At its closest in June 2024, Comet Pons-Brooks will still be about 144 million miles from Earth. Pons-Brooks should appear brightest when it is closest to the Sun on April 21, 2024. But it will not graze the Sun as it will still be about 73 million miles from the Sun that week.

See where the “Devil Comet” is now.

When can you see the “Devil Comet” Pons-Brooks?

For skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere, the best time to look for the comet will be March and April 2024 after sunset. In mid-March it will appear near the constellations Andromeda and Pisces. During its closest approach to the Sun in April, the comet will traverse the constellation Aries and head into Taurus passing near Jupiter mid-April. In May and June, the comet will be above the horizon during daylight hours and be extremely difficult to find.

Will this comet be visible during the total solar eclipse?

Yes, comet Pons-Brooks will be in the daytime sky and near its maximum brightness during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (Though it is highly unlikely to be a naked-eye comet even under nighttime conditions. And although a total eclipse darkens the sky, it probably will not make it dark enough to see it next to the eclipsed Sun—although that would be so cool!). Unless the comet brightens unexpectedly, personally I would not waste the precious few seconds of totality scanning the sky for this faint object and save your comet hunting for nighttime.

RELATED: 2024 Solar Eclipse – See Locations!

How bright will it be?

Although comets travel around the Sun in predictable paths, even astronomers do not know what they will look like or how dazzlingly bright, or boringly mediocre, they will become. 

Will you need binoculars or a telescope to see it?

Almost definitely. Astronomers’ estimates are placing the comet’s maximum brightness in April 2024 at fifth magnitude. For a comet that is not bright enough to be noticeable to the naked eye. So, unless Pons-Brooks brightens significantly more than expected, you will need binoculars to barely detect it and telescopes to see any detail. 

How big is this comet?

Since Pons-Brooks has not been near Earth in 70 years, astronomers have not been able to take accurate measurements of its nucleus. However observational evidence is suggesting that it could be about ten miles across making it about the size of Halley’s Comet.

Why is the brightness of a comet so hard to predict?

Historically comets are fickle objects. Even modern astronomers have difficulty predicting how a comet will interact with the Sun, how much gas it will shed, and how bright it will appear from Earth. When astronomers first detect a comet, it is so far away that astronomers cannot accurately measure its size, density, composition, or age. So only after it swings in for a closer view can we learn enough about the comet to be surprised by its showing. 

When was the last truly bright comet visible?

Although we have had dozens of comets visit Earth’s neighborhood in the twenty-first century, none of them have been truly spectacular. In fact, the last great comet visible to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere was comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. This is an extraordinarily long drought. We’re overdue for a comet of the century that will wow anyone and everyone who looks up.

Where does the name 12P/Pons-Brooks come from?

This comet was actually discovered twice. In 1812, Jean-Louis Pons first spotted it, but no one was able to accurately measure its orbit. When it came back around again 71 years later, William Brooks accidentally rediscovered it. So, both astronomers get their names on the comet.

Join The Discussion

Have you seen headlines lately saying that a Devil Comet heading towards Earth?

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

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Dean Regas is an expert astronomer and published author..
Dean Regas

Dean Regas is an expert astronomer and a renowned author who has written six books, including 100 Things to See in the Night Sky and How to Teach Grown-Ups About Pluto. An astronomer with more than two decades of experience, Dean is a dynamic writer and public speaker who brings the complicated field of astronomy down to Earth for students of all ages. From 2010-2019, he was the co-host of the PBS program Star Gazers. He is a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow and NPR's Here & Now. He also hosts a popular astronomy podcast called Looking Up with Dean Regas. Learn more about him at

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