SOHO Comet Hunting

SOHO Comet Hunting

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a project of international collaboration between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona and the solar wind. SOHO is the most successful comet discoverer in history, having found more than one thousand eight-hundred comets in more than thirteen years of operation. The majority of these comets have been found by amateur astronomers and enthusiasts from all over the world, scouring the images for a likely comet candidate from the comfort of their own home.

To participate in SOHO Comet Hunting, citizen scientists need an Internet connection, photo-editing software and an understanding of what SOHO comets look like. For help with the last item in that list, a guide is available online. Citizen scientists need the ability to display gif images and find the pixel value of any given point in the images. If you don't have the software, you can use the java tool on the LASCO javagifs page to measure positions. Latest images and movies are also available from the LASCO site.

If you think your object is a comet, measure its positions, read the instructions on how to use the report form, and report your object.

Project Details

  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Naval Research Laboratory
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: High/Secondary School

    Start by visiting the SOHO Comet Hunting description Web page. For additional information visit the Sungrazing Comets Web page. Any questions can be directed to

See more projects in FreeObservationHigh/Secondary School.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

Starting Thanksgiving

Enter code: HOLIDAY 2015
at checkout

Get 20% off now! >


Email this Article