By Padma A. Yanamandra-Fisher, Global Coordinator of Amateur Observations of 67P
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Figure 1 summarizes the contributions of the global network of amateur astronomers in support of the ESA/Rosetta mission during the period of 2014 - 2016. Following two years of observing comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (CG) or Chury (as it is fondly referred to now), a dedicated group of amateur observers has proven to be a great resource, creating a synergy between using social media, amateur and professional observers. As the Rosetta spacecraft orbits 67P nucleus on the comet’s seventh passage through the inner solar system, the ground-based observers provide complementary perspectives of the comet and the evolution of its coma and tail to study the evolution of comet morphology both pre- and post perihelion (perihelion occurred on 13 August 2015). Since the comet brightens post-perihelion, amateur observations in the period of September to November 2015 have identified several interesting features, independently observed by the ground-based professional community (http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2016/01/27/twin-tails/): the existence of a large tail, nearly 3-5 arc minutes or nearly 800,000km long; dust structures along the orbit of the comet or the “twin tails” (Figure 2; credit Slooh 67P Campaign), and an anti-sunward feature. Continued observations of the comet by amateurs are expected till the end of March 2016 (possibly later with larger telescopes) as the comet continues its outbound journey. The amateur data, archived in the ESA/Planetary Data Archive (PSA), will be crowdsourced for collaborations with professional observers. Amateur observers, with observations of comet 67P/CG, are requested to contact Dr. Padma A. Yanamandra-Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org) for archival of their data. Be a part of history and share your observations!
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