Observing Projects

Countdown to 500 Comets

Press Release

CLOUDCROFT, NEW MEXICO. The Earthrise Institute is pleased to announce its inaugural educational project, entitled Countdown to 500 Comets. The project takes its name and focus from Earthrise Institute founder and President Alan Hale's quest to observe 500 comets, a quest he began over 37 years ago. He has recently collected his 400th comet and, in his words, "I've decided to share my quest for comet number 500 with the astronomy students of the world."

Dr. Hale is best known as being co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, which shone brightly in Earthπs nighttime skies ten years ago. "Comets can be among the most spectacular of objects we see in our skies," notes Hale. ≥Comets like Hale-Bopp and the very recent Comet McNaught ≠ which became bright enough to view during the daytime during January before becoming an incredible nighttime sight for our friends in the southern hemisphere ≠ have always acted to inspire us to examine the universe around us.≤ While Hale remarks that brilliant comets like these are quite uncommon and that most of those he observes are much dimmer, "they are nevertheless fascinating objects for examination and study."

Students of all ages and nationalities are invited to participate in Countdown. The goal of Countdown is for students to observe as many of Dr. Haleπs next 100 comets as they are able, either by viewing them through a telescope, and/or by taking images of them with appropriately equipped telescopic cameras. Special awards will be presented to any student who successfully observes ten of Dr. Haleπs next 100 comets. Hale estimates that it will take five to seven years for him to collect those 100 comets, and thus there are plenty of opportunities for participation.

Within the next two years the Earthrise Institute expects to establish the first operational telescope at its planned dark-sky facility east of Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Once this telescope is operating it will be available for remote-control utilization for, among other projects, imaging of comets in the Countdown program.

Experienced amateur and professional astronomers, and astronomy clubs and other similar organizations, are being solicited to act as mentors and to assist in other ways with Countdown, and any individual or organization so interested is invited to contact the Institute. A sponsor is also being sought to name the comet observing awards that will be provided to successful participants of the project.

Additional information about "Countdown to 500 Comets," specific information about the comets being observed, photographs and images of the various comets, and information about assisting astronomers and organizations, is available at

The Earthrise Institute, formerly known as the Southwest Institute for Space Research, is a private non-profit organization with the goals of promoting science research and education, and for using astronomy and other activities as tools for bringing humanity together. Information about its mission, programs, and activities is available at its web site,

Projects for Amateur Observers

The Astronomical League is having a observing club offering a wide range of observation projects depending on interest, experience and available scope / binoculars.

The other page that impressed me and is very useful for tailoring personal observation projects is the NGC891 obersvers challenge