ISON Image of the Week

ISON: Bringing People Together (Aug 05, 2013)

The attendees of the Comet ISON Observers' Workshop, held at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, on August 1 - 2, 2013. [Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Warner]

If there were one word to summarize the Comet ISON Observing Campaign better than any other, that word would perhaps be "collaboration". There is arguably no aspect of scientific discovery that is more important than collaboration: scientists coming together to share their knowledge, insight, perspectives and work, both strengthening existing ties and forming new ones. The CIOC Team embraced that concept from the day we first convened, promising a Campaign that was global, collaborative and all-inclusive. On August 1st and 2nd, 2013, the CIOC followed through on that promise, bringing together a diverse crowd of experts for a 2-day meeting aimed at sharing plans, research, and results, to ensure that the Comet ISON Observing Campaign be as successful as the comet itself will allow!

Experts not only from the cometary science community but also from planetary exploration, solar physics, science outreach and amateur astronomy, gathered together for two packed days of presentations and discussion. And in the embodiment of collaboration, the conference was streamed live online, freely available for anyone, anywhere to watch, listen and interact through online chat. This latter aspect -- the live streaming and interactive chat -- made this scientific conference particularly unique, going against the more traditional convention of a closed-door meeting for scientists of a narrow field of study. Indeed, watching remotely, chatting online and participating actively were professional astronomers, scientists, amateur astronomers of all levels of expertise, and interested members of the public, freely exchanging questions, thoughts and ideas. (The conference videos are archived online from both Day 1 and Day 2.)

During the two days, we heard talks that ranged from the detailed molecular composition of comets, to planned observations of Comet ISON from spacecraft orbiting Mars, to STEM outreach programs aimed at getting school children engaged in the science of observing Comet ISON. The talks and discussion addressed a full spectrum of subjects including: how and when we will observe ISON; what might we learn about the comet (and the Sun!); how we can best share and organize our data; and how amateur astronomers and enthusiasts can participate and make critical contributions to the CIOC.

The overwhelming verdict was that the Workshop was an tremendous success. We think the whole community now has a very complete picture of Comet ISON, its current status, and possible future outcomes. The CIOC Team now has a series of action items as a result of the Workshop, and we'll quickly begin to tackle those. This means gathering observing plans, and getting them into our observing calendar, organizing information on this website into categories geared towards specific audiences (e.g. professional, pro-amateur, and amateur observers), figuring out how best to communicate with the entire community, and much more. Stay tuned to the CIOC website in the coming weeks, as we bring all of this new information and new ideas together and prepare ourselves for observing one of the most unique comets to grace our solar system in recorded history!

Every week this year we will put up a new image related to Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). If you have a cool image you'd like us to consider, please send it to, along with a description and any credits you would want applied. We'll contact you if we choose to use your image on the CIOC Website.

See our ISON Image of the Week Archives for earlier picks!