Comet 16p brooks 2

Millions of comets are found in the outer solar plane. They clash with each other. Some of them are pushed out while some are pulled further into our solar plane by the strong gravitational pull of the giant planet Jupiter. They travel on an eccentric orbit and are subject to the erratic pull and push of Jupiter. This relationship is the cause of stress leading to the breakup of some comets. One such comet is the Brooks 2. The 16th periodic comet to be discovered, Comet Brooks 2 broke into fragments in its course towards the sun. A short–period comet, it belongs to the Jupiter family.

Who discovered comet 16P/Brooks 2?

Comet Brooks 2 was discovered by an eminent British astronomer, William Robert Brooks. This comet was discovered from the Smith Observatory at Geneva. On 7th July, 1889, Brooks discovered a comet near the constellation of Aquarius, which was motionless. Next morning, he observed that the comet moved northwards.  As Brooks was the first to discover the comet, it was named after him.

What were the observations made about this planet?

Observations made about this comet include:  

  • This comet passed within 0.001 AU to Jupiter in 1886, which led to its discovery in July 1889.
  • It was noted that the comet appeared faint, with a coma of 1 arc minute across and a tail 10 arc minutes long.
  • On 1st August 1889, Edward Emerson Barnard, a well known comet hunter discovered 2 fragments of a comet and named them as B and C. Next day, he observed 4–5 more but they disappeared later. On 4th August, he observed 2 fragments and named them D and E. E disappeared but D remained for a week. Meanwhile, B grew larger and fainter but disappeared by September. C survived till mid–November of 1889.  This apparition of comet Brooks 2 existed till 13th January, 1891.
  • Tidal waves due to the gravity of Jupiter split the nucleus of comet Brooks 2 into several fragments. The brightness of the comet increased but it broke into parts B, C, D and E, apart from its main nucleus A. 
What was the magnitude noted?

The magnitude noted at the time of its discovery was 8. However, it reached a magnitude of about 10.5. Despite a shorter perihelion distance, comet Brooks 2 appears faded.   Last observed magnitude was 19.7 on its apparition in 2014.

What is its perihelion distance?

Perihelion distance of the comet is noted at about 1.466 AU on its last apparition on 8th June, 2014. Its aphelion distance is about 5.256 A.

What was the orbital period noted?

The orbital period of the comet 16P/ Brooks 2 is about 6.16 years.

Did the comet reappear or was it recovered?

Periodical Comet 16P/ Brooks 2 was recovered by Schuster at the European Southern Observatory on June 12th, 1980 and this observation was confirmed 5 nights later by Shao and J.Bulger at the Agassiz station. Comet Brooks 2 was again recovered by a well known Japanese astronomer Tsutomu Seki in 1994.

Did it encounter any other planet?

Comet 16P/ Brooks 2 encountered the giant planet Jupiter in 1921, which decreased its perihelion distance from 1.96 AU to 1.86 AU.  The earlier encounter with Jupiter in 1886 led to its discovery and further closeness led to its fragmentation. Also, two approaches near Jupiter were made in 1958 and 1969.

Is it expected to reappear?

Comet 16P/ Brooks 2 is expected to reappear on 21st January, 2021.

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