The mission is currently in the design stage. We need to develop computer models of the comet to aid mission design. However, comet Tempel 1 has not been heavily studied in the past! We need to gather scientific data about the comet's brightness changes, coma structures, and dust activity. We need coverage of the comet over several days as well as several months. This is difficult, if not impossible to do at professional observatories. To meet this need for data, we have established the Small Telescope Science Program, a network of professional and technically advanced amateur astronomers from around the world to make CCD observation of the comet from now through December 2000.
We can extract valuable, scientific information from high-quality, ground-based, CCD images taken with standard photometric "V" and "R" filters (used heavily in research) or with common "RGB" filters with an infrared-cutoff filter. Also, images taken with no filter or a clear filter will allow us to calculate coma brightness changes over time and heliocentric distance. Here is a summary of the observing requirements for our science program:
1) Take 3-5 flat fields for each filter. 2) If your CCD software does not automatically subtract a dark frame from each image, take at 3-5 separate dark frames with exposure times to saturate pixels to about 1/5 of the maximum pixel value. 3) Take multiple, short exposures of the comet. If your CCD software allows you to set tracking rates, you may track a the comet's rates (right ascension and declination or altitude and azimuth) and take longer exposures. 4) Keep an observing log. 5) Transmit all images in FITS format. We need raw, unprocessed images so we can perform detailed image analysis! You are welcome to process your images and to estimate magnitudes and relay is information to us as well.We will post your images on the web, and we WILL acknowledge you if we publish scientific articles based on your data!
Information about the Deep Impact Mission
We have a website for the Small Telescope Science Program. The site provides detailed observing requirement as well as CCD images taken by some of our program's observers.
The comet currently has an apparent visual magnitude of about 15 (possibly as faint as 17) and is visible in the early morning from both the southern and northern hemispheres. The comet passed perihelion in January 2000 and is rapidly receding from us. After December 2000, the comet will be too faint to observe. The next time to observe it will be be until 2004!
====================================================================== Stephanie McLaughlin Phone: 301-405-1566 Department of Astronomy Fax: 301-314-9067 University of Maryland Email: email@example.com College Park, MD 20742-2421 USA http://www.astro.umd.edu/~stefmcl/ ======================================================================