Cometary Science Newsletter

March 2020
Michael S. P. Kelley (

Potential Backup Targets for Comet Interceptor

Comet Interceptor is an ESA F-class mission expected to launch in 2028 on the same launcher as ESA's ARIEL mission. Comet Interceptor's science payload consists of three spacecraft, a primary spacecraft that will carry two smaller probes to be released at the target. The three spacecraft will fly-by the target along different chords, providing multiple simultaneous perspectives of the comet nucleus and its environment. Each of the spacecraft will be equipped with different but complementary instrument suites designed to study the far and near coma environment and surface of a comet or interstellar object (ISO). The primary spacecraft will perform a fly-by at ~1000 km from the target. The two smaller probes will travel deeper into the coma, closer to the nucleus. The mission is being designed and launched without a specific comet designated as its main target. Comet Interceptor will travel to the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrangian point with ARIEL and wait in hibernation until a suitable long-period comet (LPC) is found that will come close enough to the Sun for the spacecraft to maneuver to an encounter trajectory. To prepare for all eventualities, the science team has assembled a preliminary set of backup targets from the known Jupiter family comets, where a suitable fly-by trajectory can be achieved during the nominal mission timeline (including the possibility of some launch delay). To better prioritize this list, we are releasing our potential backup targets in order to solicit the planetary community's help with observations of these objects over future apparitions and to encourage publication of archival data on these objects.

Authors: Schwamb, M. E., Knight, M. M., Jones, G. H., Snodgrass, C., Bucci, L., Perez, Jose Manuel Sanchez, Skuppin, Nikolai

Published in the Research Notes of the American Astronomical Society: DOI: 10.3847/2515-5172/ab7300

Conference Announcements

Announcements for cometary conferences or workshops. Limited to 2000 characters.

Comet-like activity of small bodies in the Solar system

We are pleased to announce the international workshop:
“Comet-like activity of small bodies in the Solar system”

The workshop will provide a cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange on physics of the small bodies in the Solar system revealing a comet-like activity, new cometary missions (Comet Interceptor, Destiny+) and related ground-based observational campaigns.

The workshop will be held in Tatranska Lomnica, Slovakia, from 22 to 25 September 2020.

The workshop is organized by the Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Tatranska Lomnica.