Participate in the Comet ISON Observing Campaign!
Astronomy is one of the few sciences where professionals depend upon the participation of amateurs for supporting scientific data. Even if comet ISON does not live up to the initial hype, it offers amazing opportunities to contribute your findings to one of the most comprehensive cometary investigations in history.
The Comet ISON Observing Campaign, or CIOC, was formed at the request of NASA to coordinate an observing campaign for ISON, which provides a rare opportunity to study a sungrazing comet for an extended period of time, and with scores of space- and land-based instruments. The CIOC committee is made up of cometary experts from universities and scientific institutions around the country, and its goal is to assist both ground and space-based NASA observatories as well as private observatories around the world in obtaining scientifically useful observations of comet ISON, and to encourage the pooling of resources and sharing of data.
The CIOC wants all serious observers, be they professionals or amateurs, to participate in the study of comet ISON. Amateurs who wish to contribute their findings can join the official CIOC Facebook group to learn more about how they can help.
The Amateur Observers' Program at the University of Maryland is also a great way to contribute your observations of comet ISON. The AOP program was originally put together to support the NASA Deep Impact mission with observations of comet Tempel 1. The asteroid Vesta and comet Hartley 2 were subsequent program targets in support of the NASA Discovery mission Dawn and the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation (EPOXI).
While the AOP is still taking data on Vesta and Ceres for the Dawn mission, they are now supporting the CIOC's campaign as well. Even if you don't know that much about what a comet is, or how to turn in scientific data, the Amateur Observers Program will teach you. What a great project for teens and adults interested in scientific discovery!
Do you want to participate in a worldwide observing program to study contributed images of comet ISON? Dr. Nalin Samarasinha of the Planetary Science Institute is leading the Morphology Campaign, and the goal is to use images of the comet,, contributed by observers from all around the world, to measure its rotation, activity, gas/dust production, and more. The Morphology Campaign is open to all levels of observers, including amateurs. You can visit the Planetary Science Institute website for more information on how to submit photographs along with supporting documentation.
--by Penny Distasio