Selected Comets in 2024

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has the potential to reach naked-eye visibility in 2024. This Halley-type or intermediate-period comet last visited the inner solar system in 1954 and is scheduled to return to perihelion on April 2024.

Orbital Elements (December 2023)
semi-major axis:17.18 au
period:71.22 years
perihelion distance:0.7809 au
perihelion date:21 April 2024

12P/Pons-Brooks is named for French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons (1761–1831) who first observed the object in 1812, and British-born American astronomer William Robert Brooks (1844–1921), who recovered the comet in 1883. Both men were prolific comet discoverers. However, the comet had been noticed as early as 1313 by Korean astronomers. 12P/Pons-Brooks is thought to be the source of the κ Draconid meteors, a minor shower occurring at the beginning of December.

Both the Minor Planet Center and JPL calculate that the comet may become as bright as fourth magnitude, making it an easy target in binoculars. It is an evening sky object at the beginning of 2024, visible in northern skies as it descends southward through the constellations Andromeda and Pisces in March. It continues through Aries, skimming past second-magnitude α Ari (Hamal) at the very end of March, and is in Taurus at the time of perihelion. Look for it near the fourth-magnitude stars ξ Tau and ο Tau. Southern hemisphere observers get the best views of the comet as it speeds away from the Sun, with the now-fading 12P/Pons-Brooks moving through Eridanus and into Lepus in May.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks in 2024.