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CIOC Overview

Coordinated Investigations Of Comets (CIOC)

Hopefully the acronym "CIOC" [pronounced "see-ock"] is somewhat familiar. The term originated with the NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign, which was launched in April 2013 with a lofty goal of collecting history's largest and most diverse cometary data set to date. By any reasonable measure, and despite the loss of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) as it passed perihelion in November 2013, that Campaign was an overwhelming success. Observations were gathered from more than a dozen space-based satellites and telescopes, most of the major ground-based observatories around the world, and countless amateur and "pro-amateur" astronomers.

Thanks to the Campaign, and the overwhelming support of so many enthusiasts, astronomers, scientists, observatory program managers, and spacecraft engineers around the world, we were able to obtain unprecedented volumes of data that tracked comet ISON from far outside of Jupiter's orbit, all the way to its complete destruction on November 28, 2013. Perhaps more importantly than this extraordinary science return, the Campaign demonstrated that even in times of dwindling science budgets, the amateur and professional astronomical and scientific communities can still pool their resources, collaborate, and produce amazing results.

It is for this reason that in December 2013, NASA suggested that the CIOC continue its work and retain the familiar acronym under the modified title of Coordinated Investigations Of Comets and with a new target of interest - namely, C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring).

The goals of this new Observing Campaign are somewhat different from those of the ISON Campaign but the fundamental principle is the same: we are to encourage and help facilitate a global observing campaign for comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) in preparation for its close pass by the planet Mars in October 2014. Once again we believe that with support from major ground and space-based observatories, and a global army of eager amateur and pro-amateur astronomers, we can obtain a valuable data set that addresses several important scientific goals.

Once comet Siding Spring has passed, we do not have any further planned targets for the CIOC. But comets of high scientific potential tend to come along with relative frequency, and thus it certainly isn't out of the question that the CIOC will turn its attention to future targets of interest.