It is with great delight that I can announce that the ESA/NASA SOHO mission has officially discovered it's 5,000th comet! A tiny, faint, Marsden-group comet reported by Hanjie Tan on March 25 took us past that magical mark! 

Comet SOHO-5000 in SOHO/LASCO C2. [Credits: ESA/NASA/NRL/Karl Battams]


Of course, many congratulations go to Hanjie for discovering SOHO-5000. He has been with the Sungrazer Project since he was 13 years old, and is now pursuing his PhD studying asteroids. The ability for Sungrazer to inspire teenagers like Hanjie, as well as Man-To Hui, Quanzhi Ye, Rafal Biros, and so many other young people, is certainly one of the Project's greatest achievements. But as I have said before: SOHO-5000 not a discovery that belongs just to one person, because one person didn't discover 5,000 comets -- all of the Sungrazer contributors did! Everyone who has participated in Sungrazer in some way have helped it reach this point, making it an amazing team achievement that all should be proud of! 

As many of you know, the Sungrazer Project was officially launched on November 2, 2000, as a very basic web page that enabled people to submit reports of new comets seen in the SOHO data. The creation of that page was in response to growing interest from amateur astronomers who had been spotting comets in the data and emailing reports to the SOHO project team. In that sense, Sungrazer was not created by scientists -- it was created by the volunteer community! This is just one of many ways in which Sungrazer is singularly unique among the NASA Citizen Science portfolio.

It takes approximately 4 - 5 years for 1,000 comet discoveries, so -- regrettably -- this is probably SOHO's last major comet milestone. The SOHO mission is nominally scheduled to end on December 31, 2025, though such dates are not always 100% guaranteed. Regardless of that date, SOHO may have 'given birth' to the Sungrazer Project, but it is fully intended that Sungrazer will outlive SOHO! We already have several other heliophysics telescopes (e.g. SECCHI, WISPR) discovering near-Sun and sungrazing comets, and more telescopes are planned for the future. The hope is that Sungrazer will span all missions, and continue perpetually for as long as we observe the inner heliosphere. (More details on this will come over time.) 

It continues to be an honor to lead this project, and I personally thank each and every one of you, past, present, and future, for your continued efforts. This is truly valuable work, with a huge and unique science return, and there is absolutely no way it could be accomplished without your combined efforts.


[NOTE: recent comet confirmations will be posted separately (soon)]