April 27, 2015
Did you hear, did you hear -- things are “heating” up for comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Just as the activity of the comet is increasing while coming closer and closer to the Sun (perihelion will take place in August 2015), so is activity gathering momentum much closer to home.
Professional observer E. Jehin and his team reported that they observed comet 67P using the TRAPPIST Observatory in Chile on April 18, 2015. However, this was not the first observation.
The first post-solar conjunction observations of comet 67P were reported by three French amateur observers (A. Maury, J.-F. Soulier and J.-G. Bosch) on April 13, 2015 using the Remote Space Observatory in Atacama, Chile. This sighting of the comet was unexpected, especially so close to solar conjunction.
Solar conjunction occurs when a planet or other solar system object -- like a comet -- is behind the Sun, as viewed from the surface of the Earth. This makes the object impossible to observe. As time passes and the motions of our solar system continue, the object moves from behind the Sun and begins to be visible. However, it is very difficult to spot. The Sun, being as bright as it is, blares it out. Plus, comet 67P is currently at low elevations (close to the horizon).
The early observations of the comet has excited the various communities involved in observing the comet, and especially those involved in the amateur observer component of the Rosetta Ground Based Campaign coordinated by Padma A. Yanamandra-Fisher.
“The growing excitement of the observing campaign can be seen in the increasing number of amateur observers that are signing up to take part in the campaign,” said Yanamandra-Fisher.
Some of that excitement is being sparked through sharing on social media. Past observing campaigns (think ISON and Siding Spring) engaged the public and shared up-to-the-minute happenings via such outlets as Twitter and Facebook.
“These [past] campaigns brought together a team of comet experts, serious and casual amateur astronomers, educators and outreach professionals, which helped foster collaborations in characterizing the comet -- there was a lot of public engagement and vibrant amateur campaigns,” said Yanamandra-Fisher.
Being a part of this year’s campaign (sign up via the links below) not only gives you the ability to collaborate with professionals, but also access to pertinent information. From when and where to observe the comet, to how to upload the data. Members also get to be a part of the PACA Facebook group.
Members of the Facebook group talk, ask questions, share and collaborate over images, findings and data. Lively conversations are made possible between people that live oceans apart. For example, with the recent recovery of the comet, members could ask within the group if the comet was visible to other members in the southern latitudes. Yanamandra-Fisher added, “I am seeing amongst the observers a sense of trust, a sense of comradery and open sharing.”
There are also “core members” within the group as Yanamandra-Fisher calls them. These are members that have been actively engaged in observing comet 67P during past apparitions, as well as observing other comets. These members share their expertise with others in the group.
“Many of the amateur astronomers that participated in both the ISON and Siding Spring observing campaigns were the first members to join the Facebook group for the 67P campaign,” said Yanamandra-Fisher.
You can find all the information you need to join the campaign and be a part of a world-wide collaboration by checking out the links below.
Note: With increased requests for membership and submissions, please be aware that there may be a delay in processing requests.
- Campaign Details and How to Observe
- Sign Up for the Campaign
- Request to Join the PACA Facebook Group (see group guidelines on page)
- More Campaign Information
Finder charts and participation certificates – look for these on this website soon.