Esa’s Rosetta mission has asked amateur astronomers for help, SEN reports. The story gives a good overview of why scientists need ground observations even though Rosetta is right there at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (I'll call it 67P/C-G). It also explains the advantage amateurs have over the professionals when it comes to observing comets.
What does it mean for amateurs? Pro-am collaboration is standard practice in planetary science - and especially in comet studies. Thanks to affordable research-quality telescopes and the Internet's global reach, amateurs are playing a greater role than ever.
The Rosetta effort evolved from a campaign to observe the Comet Ison as it approached the inner Solar System. A global team of professional and amateur astronomers formed the Comet Ison Observing Campaign to collect observations. It was so successful that scientists called on the network to observe Comet Siding Spring C/2013A1 as it approached Mars last year.
The Comet 67P/C-G campaign consists of two parts. European scientists are coordinating the professional side of the ground campaign. Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched the amateur side with the Rosetta Ground-based Campaign. The JPL press release explains why the role of amateurs is so important:
- Amateurs have more opportunities to observe the comet.
- The pros must compete to get time on the big telescopes
- The big telescopes can't point as close to the Sun as amateur telescopes
Of course, there's a catch. You can't help science by putting your iPhone up to a telescope. The amateurs participating in Paca and the Rosetta Ground-based Campaign have advanced skills and equipment. You have to be able to answer the questions on the registration page in order to contribute. (Or read about the Paca Rosetta Campaign's private Facebook Group)
Here are some earlier posts about amateurs, professionals, and comets:
- Amateurs Help European Space Agency Study Comets
- Help find comets skimming by the Sun
- Learn how to find space rocks with the Asteroid Observer's Program
- Shoemaker Levy 9's Anniversary Ends, but its Impact Continues
- Recon's student space explorers will peer into the Solar System's far frontier
- Enabling Amateurs: Precovery
If you like what you’ve read, why not make a contribution of your own? Give me feedback on the articles you’ve read, suggest amateur projects that deserve promotion, or donate to the tip jar. Every little bit helps.