About the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC)
In November 2013, comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) will pass the Sun at just 0.012AU (~1.1-million kilometers above the solar surface), classifying it as a Sungrazing Comet, and potentially a spectacular one! Comet ISON is still very far away, and thus it remains difficult to predict exactly how bright the comet will become in November. However, there does exist the potential for this to be one of the brightest comets of the past century. To that end, NASA has requested a small committee of cometary experts to be formed to coordinate an observing campaign for this comet, under the assumption that it will become easily-visible by the latter part of 2013. The individual members of the team are listed on our Team Page
The goals of this NASA campaign, and thus of the CIOC Team, are to assist both ground and space-based NASA observatories, and private observatories around the world, in obtaining the most scientifically useful observations of comet ISON. Sungrazing comets are unique objects that experience the most extreme thermal and gravitation forces our solar system has to offer them. However, rarely do we get to see these objects more than a few hours before their demise. Comet ISON offers us the rare opportunity to study a Sungrazer in great detail, for an extended period, and place it in the context of other comets.
Observing Sungrazers, particularly as they get close to the Sun, can require a different approach from a scientific stand-point. Also, many of NASA space-based observatories and spacecraft are not designed or intended to observe comets, but nonetheless have imaging and spectroscopic capabilities that can be adapted to this task, and return valuable and unique science results.
We have already contacted several major observatories and space missions asking for their support of the cometary community in observing ISON, and as November draws near we will post individual observing plans online. Note that the purpose of this Campaign is to facilitate, support and encourage the scientific community to pool its resources towards a common goal or target, and promote ongoing ISON observing plans at a high level. To pursue specific observing campaigns, please contact the individual observatories mentioned below. To apply for research funding support, please contact the NASA PATM and PAST and NEO programs, or the NSF AAG program.
We would like the entire cometary and solar community to have access to all available observing data. At the very least, there is a great benefit in collecting and posting representative nightly results from the different observing teams. This should help observers plan their next runs and quickly understand any important changes for the comet. Thus it is the desire of the CIOC that all data and observations are made immediately and publicly available online for use by the scientific community. However, this is at the discretion of the individuals and missions involved, and is not controlled by the CIOC Team. The CIOC plans to host and share a representative subset of images and spectra on the Campaign website, but we do not plan to be a host for all related data. Rather, we prefer to allow individual projects to host their own data, make it widely available to the community, and the CIOC will provide a consolidated list of links to these data sets.