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Comet ISON Observer's Workshop Set for Aug. 1-2 at Johns Hopkins APL

A workshop will be held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. on Aug. 1-2, 2013 to maximize the scientific opportunities and data gathered during the upcoming visit to our solar system by Comet ISON.

This rare type of comet, discovered in late 2012, is about to swoop into the inner solar system. In late November, it will pass within 684,000 miles of the sun, categorizing it as a sungrazer comet.

“This is an extraordinary event,” says APL’s Carey Lisse, head of NASA’s Comet ISON Observation Campaign (CIOC), and organizer of the workshop. “Comet ISON will help show us what the recipe for building the solar system was. Comets like ISON are the dinosaur bones of solar system formation.”

Comet ISON is believed to come from the distant Oort Cloud, a roughly spherical collection of comets and comet-like structures about one light-year away from the sun. ISON may contain the same fundamental building blocks that led to the formation of life on Earth some 3.5 billion years ago, so scientists are keen to study it using modern instruments and observatories located around Earth and the solar system. NASA is leading an effort to observe and study this comet, providing the use of its available resources including currently operating spacecraft, ground-based telescopes and the Balloon Rapid Response for ISON (BRRISON) project, launching this fall.

This is likely ISON’s first visit to our solar system, which makes predictions of its travels somewhat uncertain. “It remains difficult to predict exactly how bright the comet will become in November,” says Lisse. “However, the potential exists for this to be one of the brightest comets of the past century. We encourage observers from around the world to study this fascinating comet.”

Confirmed workshop speakers include Kelly Fast, Lindley Johnson, Mike Mumma and Diane Wooden from NASA; Mike A'Hearn, Tony Farnham and Lori Feaga from the University of Maryland; Andy Cheng from APL; Jian-Yang Li from the Planetary Science Institute; Karel Schrijver from the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab; and the CIOC team.

Pre-registration is required for attendance; members of the working press and media should also register to attend. The workshop will be streamed live and archived for later viewing. Details are available at

Learn more about NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign at:

NASA’s Comet ISON Toolkit is at:

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

Geoffrey Brown | Newswise
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