This post is based on an article published on the NASA JPL Rosetta science blog.
Are you an amateur astronomer? The Rosetta mission has an opportunity for you, one that will allow you to collaborate with professional astronomers and study a comet in tandem with a real space mission.
Padma A. Yanamandra-Fisher, who is the Rosetta Coordinator of Amateur Observations for Comet 67P/C-G, would like to alert the amateur astronomer community and invite them to participate in a campaign to observe this comet during the coming months.
She says: “We are looking to bring an entire community of professional and amateur observers together. When else can you observe a comet at the same time a spacecraft is viewing it at close proximity and escorting it to perihelion, and be able to correlate both sets of findings?”
While professional observers have requested time at almost all of the large telescopes around the world, the amateur astronomer community has the advantage of observing world-wide and over a longer period of time. In addition, since 67P/C-G is a periodic comet it has been observed by the amateur community during its past apparitions.
“This comet orbits the Sun about every 6.5 years and this is the seventh apparition that we have been able to view from the ground,” says Padma. “With each apparition we see it behave differently. These legacy data sets will aid in our knowledge of this comet and especially when used in combination with the data gathered by the Rosetta spacecraft and the new ground observations made this year.”
Amateurs can observe the comet with at least a 14-inch telescope, although it will be faint – at a magnitude of about 11. Look for the comet beginning in April during dawn in the northern latitudes as it heads towards perihelion on 13 August, 2015. Unfortunately, Southern Hemisphere observers will not be able to view the comet until post-perihelion.
“The comet is known for its post-perihelion brightness from previous apparitions, which we now know to be the change of seasons on the oddly-shaped bi-lobed nucleus,” says Padma. “This is one of the windows of time (September to November) that we expect the amateurs to make a major contribution as well.”
For more information on both the amateur and professional observing campaigns of Comet 67P/C-G, including how to join and contribute, read the full article on the NASA JPL Rosetta science blog, here.