Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, also known as the “devil comet,” surprised astronomers with the development of a second tail after its recent close encounter with Earth. The comet, which has a green hue due to carbon atoms in its tail and coma, made its closest approach to the sun in April this year and passed by Earth on June 2, reaching a distance of 1.5 astronomical units from our planet.

Astrophotographers captured a striking image of the comet on June 3, revealing the unusual second tail, known as an anti-tail, pointing in the opposite direction of the comet’s normal tail. This optical illusion occurs when Earth passes through the comet’s orbital plane, illuminating the debris left behind by the comet.

Comet anti-tails are rare phenomena, with the last documented case observed in 2023. Previous instances include Comet Kohoutek in 1973, Comet Haleā€“Bopp in 1997, and Comet PanSTARRS in 2013. This is not the first time Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks has made headlines; in April, its main tail was temporarily ripped off by a solar storm as it slingshotted around the sun.

Despite being visible to the naked eye at its closest point to the sun, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is now only observable with a good telescope as it embarks on its journey back to the outer edges of the solar system. The comet is not expected to return to the inner solar system until around 2095.

The discovery of the second tail on Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks adds to the intrigue surrounding this “devil comet.” As scientists continue to study this rare phenomenon, new insights into the behavior and composition of comets may be revealed. This unexpected development underscores the importance of ongoing research and observation of celestial bodies in our solar system.