What is the Sungrazer Project?
A NASA-funded Citizen Science Project that enables anyone in the world to become a comet discoverer!
How does it work?
Participants download the latest images from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), or NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft missions, and look for moving objects - specifically comets. These objects are submitted as reports to this website, and are reviewed by the Project Administrator to determine if they are real and if they are a new object.
What are the requirements or qualifications for participants?
There are absolutely no requirements for participants other than having an internet connection and a laptop or desktop computer (the project is not well-suited to mobile phone or tablet platforms).We encourage participants from anywhere in the world, of all ages, and all backgrounds. No science expertise is required - but a lot of patience is!
How will I get data? Will someone send me the data?
Participants will go to the SOHO project website and download the data of their choice to search for comets - we do not send/allocate data sets. More information about this can be found in the Guide and Tutorial.
How can I join? Where do I begin?
First, we encourage all new participants to carefully read the Guide followed by the Comet Hunting Tutorial. You should also take a look at the SOHO Website and get familiar with the LASCO C2 and LASCO C3 images in which nearly all of the comets are discovered. If you think the project is right for you, submit the "Contributor Request Form" with your full name (and optionally a contact email) and your request should be approved within 1 - 3 days. You can also send an email to the Sungrazer Project Administrator - firstname.lastname@example.org - and they will manually add you to the project. You are always welcome and encouraged to also email any questions you have about the project.
How will my participation contribute to science?
Well over half of all known comets have been discovered via the Sungrazer Project! Your discoveries help drive a huge variety of scientific research, including studies of comet orbits, families, composition, dust properties, evolution and fragmenting. Sungrazer discoveries have also been used to benefit heliophysics (studies of the Sun), as we watch comets plunge through the Sun's atmosphere like small solar probes. Project discoveries have led to dozens of scientific research papers, contributed to several PhDs, and inspired enthusiasts as young as 12 years old to pursue astronomy careers!
Hunting for SOHO comets is very different to most other Citizen Science projects. It requires a lot of patience, is very competitive, and there is a bit of a learning curve. For background information, is useful to know why SOHO spots so many comets. From a more scientific perspective, the most recent project science paper is freely available online, and contains some good background on the nature of the different "groups" of comets that are seen in the SOHO images as well as some of the science that we can learn from studying them.
A number of videos have been made by NASA and the Naval research Laboratory over the years, containing overviews of how the project works and detailing some of our successes. A short listing is provided below.
[Above] A quick two-minute overview of the Sungrazer Project, with the Project Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Karl Battams
[Above] Four of our favorite Sungrazer Project discoveries!