Photo of the Day

Why does Comet Pons-Brooks now have tails pointing in opposite directions? The most spectacular tail is the blue-glowing ion tail that is visible flowing down the image. The ion tail is pushed directly out from the Sun by the solar wind. On the upper right is the glowing central coma of Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks. Fanning out from the coma, mostly to the left, is the comet’s dust tail. Pushed out and slowed down by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit and, from some viewing angles, can appear opposite to the ion tail. The distant, bright star Alpha Leporis is seen at the bottom of the featured image captured last week from Namibia. Two days ago, the comet passed its closest to the Earth and is now best visible from southern skies as it dims and glides back to the outer Solar System.