A comet returning after seven decades and putting on a spectacular show in our solar system is expected to soon appear at the highly-anticipated April total solar eclipse over North America.

It took 71 years—but Comet P12/Pons-Brooks has finally returned to our inner solar system after traversing its gargantuan elliptical orbit around the sun. The last time it reached perihelion (its point closest to the sun) was in May 1954, the same year Elvis Presley recorded his second demo at Sun Studios in Memphis.

It must have been a cold and lonely journey for the comet. But in 2020, astronomers finally reacquired visual contact with P12/Pons-Brooks. And as it headed down the last leg toward the sun, its visage was only enhanced.

Essentially a conglomeration of frozen gas and space dust leftover from the formation of the solar system ages ago, comets have a dense, cold nucleus that often lies dormant. When they near the sun, however, solar radiation causes dramatic outbursts in them as frozen gas sublimates, forming often-spectacular clouds of debris around them called coma.

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Iron Will

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