Participation in the CIOC

The CIOC is a broad campaign, international in scope and inclusive of all who wish to join in! We can break down the participation groups into three categories, though there is overlap between the categories: Space-based, Professional, and Amateur. The information below is just a rough overview that we hope conveys the scope of the CIOC. While there have been comet observing campaigns before, this is arguably the most diverse and inclusive cometary observing campaign in history. We can not guarantee the comet will perform as we hope, and we can not guarantee that all observing attempts and programs will be successful. But what we can guarantee is that we will not waste this potential chance at a historic set of comet observations.

Space-based participation

One of the key aspects of the Comet ISON Observing Campaign is that not only are we across the globe but we are in space too! While there are currently no commissioned spacecraft currently dedicated to comet studies, there are still numerous spacecraft that do -- or can -- make observations of comet. Some of the obvious ones include the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes which observe many astronomical targets, including comets, and the EPOXI satellite (formerly Deep Impact) which is currently between missions but still capable of taking images of Comet ISON.

These three are certainly great space-based assets to have but the CIOC is far more ambitious than that! Our observing campaign not only includes those missions but a fleet of Heliophysics missions including SOHO (NASA/ESA), STEREO (NASA), SDO (NASA), Hinode (JAXA), Proba (ESA), and Planetary missions including MESSENGER, JUNO, Venus Express, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, and the Mars Exploration Rovers. None of these spacecraft are designed for studying or looking at comets, but nonetheless still have instrumentation that can be adapted to take visual, ultraviolet, extreme-ultraviolet, x-ray and spectroscopic observations of Comet ISON as it makes its passage through the inner solar system.

At this stage, we believe we have contacted all space-based observatories that may have the capability to observe the comet. Of course, many of these mission have operational constraints that could inhibit or precent them from making observations, but all of the teams that we have contacted have shown interest and enthusiasm in at least attempting ISON observations. As the year progresses and we begin to get observations from these missions, we will update this site accordingly.

Professional participation

Central to the Campaign are ground-based observations of Comet ISON from major observatories around the world. At the start of the Campaign we contacted many of these, requesting that they consider soliciting for and accepting proposal to use telescope time for observations of the comet. The response we received was extremely positive and as a consequence, many major observatories within the United States have accepted proposals for observing ISON in the weeks surrounding perihelion. For example, the NASA InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF) has set aside approximately 170-hours of observing time for ISON, and will be making all those data public a week or so after they are taken.

When results from these observatories begin to be made public (assuming that they are: this is at the discretion of the observers) we will certainly make mention of them on this site.

The CIOC is collecting observation plans from observers and publishing them online to facilitate coordination and collaboration in the community. For more details, and a form with which you can share your plans, see our calendar and table of observations.

Amateur participation

The CIOC is not just for "professional" observatories. We are fully encouraging of all observers around the world from getting in on the fun! To that end, we have established a Facebook group for amateur astronomers that wish to participate in the Campaign and help return valuable scientific data about Comet ISON. The Amateur Observers' Program at University of Maryland also has more information and resources.

One example of an outstanding program that encourages amateur astronomers to contribute to an important scientific study is one orchestrated by Dr. Nalin Samarasinha from the Planetary Science Institute, outlined below. High-quality observations used in his study will be acknowledged with co-authorship for the observers.

A Global Morphology Campaign for All Observers

Dr. Nalin Samarasinha (Planetary Science Institute) and collaborators are leading a campaign to obtain images of Comet ISON from all over the world, with the goal to use those images to measure ISON's rotation, activity, gas/dust production, and more. The Morphology Campaign is open to all levels of observers, including amateurs. Full details of his program are available at the Morphology Campaign's website.