Upcoming Observations (Oct 4 - 11)

We've had an observing calendar up on this site for a while now but, as you might expect, it's already getting rather crowded with proposed observations. So I thought maybe each week - time allowing - I'll highlight some of the upcoming proposed observations for the next week. So here goes...

Every day now there are a bunch of optical telescopes around the world observing ISON, all of which provide valuable input on its brightness, morphology (tail/coma shape and length for example), dust production rates, etc. I can't write about each of these individually as there are just too many. But you should consider it a given now that there is not going to be a day of the week in the next couple of months that at least a few people -- amateur and professional -- aren't going to be trying for optical observations of ISON.

For a while now the Nancay Radio Telescope have been taking spectroscopic measurements of ISON. We haven't heard back about any results yet, but observations like this can tell us a lot about the emissions from the comet. These Nancay observations are actually continuing daily and indefinitely (i.e. for the next month or two, depending on how the comet behaves), so a long baseline of data like this can prove invaluable for also detecting changes in the comet's behavior over time.

One of the highlights of the week is that, beginning today, NASA's SWIFT observatory is making a fresh set of observations in both optical and X-ray wavelengths. You may remember that SWIFT returned some awesome images of ISON early on in the Campaign, so we can probably hope for even better now that the comet is a few orders of magnitude brighter, and a lot closer, than it was back then. These SWIFT observations continue through October 12, so it might be a few days after that before they release their images. You'll hear about it though, don't worry!

On Monday, the Arecibo Observatory begin a long campaign of radio observations that again will teach us more about ISON's outgassing. And not that they're bragging or anything, but that facility hosts the world's largest single-aperture telescope: over 300-meters in diameter! So there's that...

On Wednesday, the Infra-Red Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii begin infrared observations (1 - 5 micron wavelength) of comet ISON. The principal investigator for that is the CIOC's own Ron Vervack, so you can expect that I'll be harassing him into writing a blog post about that sometime soon!

I've mentioned this a couple of times now, on this website and on my Twitter feed, but late next week comet ISON will enter the HI-2 field of view on the NASA STEREO satellite. Once it's there, that marks the beginning of over two months of continuous, uninterrupted, 24/7 observing of comet ISON. In terms of appearance, ISON will start off small and faint, but over the coming weeks you will get to watch it grow and brighten. Hopefully by later this month we'll be able to detect some cool tail dynamics as it begins to interact with the solar wind. The solar spacecraft observations are "my thing", so expect me to get more vocal about those as time pushes on. But one thing I do need to say upfront is that there's a ~2-day delay in processing STEREO data, so while the comet will enter the data on the 10th-or-so, don't expect to see those images online (high-res, at least) until the 12th or 13th.

Final note: comet ISON is around 11th magnitude now, and not too badly placed in the sky. It's now in the realm of being a "backyard comet", albeit a tricky one. So find some reasonably dark skies, get out your telescope or find a friend who has one, or find your local amateur astronomy club, and get out there observing! Happy hunting!

Keep up-to-date on the latest ISON and sungrazing comet news via my @SungrazerComets Twitter feed. All opinions stated on there, and in my blog posts, are my own.