Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comet ISON: Your Half-time Report

I sit writing this at 38,000 feet as I head out to Kitt Peak to join my fellow CIOC-ers Matthew and Casey for perihelion observations of Comet ISON, and I find myself having an early moment of reflection.
When I first heard about comet ISON and its sungrazing orbit in September 2012, I though, "this sounds promising, but there's a long time between now and perihelion, and anything could happen. I'm not going to get excited over this one just yet." In January 2013 I found myself at a meeting in Washington DC in which ISON was discussed and the representative from NASA Headquarters recommended that maybe the science community orchestrate an observing campaign centered on the comet. Having lived through a similar event before with the observing campaign to support the NASA Deep Impact mission, Dr. Casey Lisse volunteered to lead the effort and immediately tapped a couple of attendees on the shoulder, myself included, to join the Campaign team.
I've never been involved in something like this, so I really wasn't certain what to expect of the Campaign or of the comet. What has unfolded is simply beyond any expectation I could ever have had.