Wyoming Skywatchers Can See Solar Eclipse And Green Devil Comet On Same Day

Viewers of the partial solar eclipse in Wyoming on Monday will also have the opportunity to see the green "Devil Comet" on the same day. The chance of seeing a celestial event like this is very rare, according to UW planetarium director Max Gilbraith.

Ellen Fike

April 05, 20244 min read

Eclipse and devil comet 4 5 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyomingites will get a rare opportunity Monday to potentially see a solar eclipse and a comet on the same day. It’s a celestial convergence not many ever live to experience. 

While they won’t happen at the same time, Max Gilbraith, planetarium coordinator for the University of Wyoming, said the chance of someone seeing an eclipse and comet on the same day is about 5 in 100,000. 

“The ‘devil comet’ is not a major one like Halley’s comet, where there’s an arcing tail going across the sky,” Gilbraith said. “We usually get a comet like this one every year, whereas a solar eclipse takes place every 18 months or so.” 

Areas in complete totality for the eclipse, such as Vermont, might be able to see both the comet and eclipse at the same time in the sky, but since Wyoming is not in the path of totality, that won’t happen here.

Whether seeing both at the same time or on the same day means insanity or some other unknown impact on the human brain “has not been tested,” Gilbraith said, adding that it “could result in the loss of sanity and/or the ideation of world domination.”

The Eclipse

The highly anticipated solar eclipse will be partially visible across Wyoming around 11:30 a.m. and won’t completely disappear until around 2 p.m. It will reach totality in the state around 12:30 p.m. 

The farther southeast people are in the state, the better viewing they will likely have. In Wyoming, eclipse totality will be around 50% to 60%, Gilbraith said. 

He also noted that despite Wyomingites not being able to see the eclipse in complete totality, they should still view the phenomenon with proper eclipse glasses. 

“If you can still get glasses, they need to have the proper ISO standard, which is ISO 12312-2. These will allow you to comfortably and safely view the solar eclipse,” Gilbraith said. “It’s not recommended to use any home solutions. However, during a partial eclipse like this, you can grab a pasta strainer and hold it up to the sky and it will create a pinhole camera to project the eclipse onto the ground.” 

Wyoming Stargazing’s Sam Singer told Cowboy State Daily recently there is another way to create a pinhole projector should eclipse glasses not be available. 

To make one, a person can punch a tiny hole in a piece of paper with a needle, then use the resulting pinhole to project the sun’s image onto pavement or asphalt, allowing a person to safely watch the eclipse.  

This particular eclipse will be the last one visible in the contiguous United States until August 2044, according to NASA. 

The Comet

The devil comet, officially known as 12P/Pons-Brooks, is again visible from Earth after 70 years of orbit. 

Gilbraith recommended looking for the comet early Monday evening, where it will look like a star that’s slightly out of place in the sky. 

“Right now, it’s in the constellation of Aries and actually just near Jupiter and Mercury in the evening sky,” Gilbraith said. “So on Monday evening, if you’re somewhere with nice and dark clear skies, you should be able to see something that looks like a faint star to the naked eye.

“But with binoculars or a telescope, you can see a little bit of the double tail that gives it its name of the devil comet.” 

Monday won’t be the only time the comet is visible in Wyoming’s skies. Gilbraith told Cowboy State Daily in March that the best viewing of the fireball is now through June, when it makes its closest approach to Earth.  

Ellen Fike can be reached at: Ellen@CowboyStateDaily.com

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Ellen Fike