AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 71 Large-Scale Features of the Solar Corona
SPD Poster, Thursday, June 3, 2004, 9:20am-4:00pm, Ballroom

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[71.08] The use of amateur comet images as probes of the solar wind

G. H. Jones (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology), J. C. Brandt (Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of New Mexico)

The plasma tails of comets are excellent probes of solar wind conditions. Studies of images of plasma tails led Biermann to first suggest the solar wind's existence as a fast, continuous flow of particles from the Sun. In-situ measurements of the solar wind by spacecraft surpass the accuracy of solar wind parameters derived from comet observations. However, except for those made by Ulysses, in-situ measurements are largely obtained close to the ecliptic, providing only information on the low-latitude heliosphere. For our research project, wide-field amateur comet images have been used to determine the solar wind conditions at several bright comets, particularly those in high-inclination orbits that provide data away from the ecliptic. Advances in the CCD technology accessible to amateurs have raised the quality of amateur images to be competitive with observations made at professional observatories. The large geographical spread in amateurs' location around the world provides good temporal coverage of cometary targets. Increased use of the Internet has also led to improvements to the efficiency of the project: we issue calls for observations by amateurs at relevant web sites, message boards and email lists. The images obtained in response are being used to reveal the locations of fast and slow solar wind streams, possible boundaries of coronal mass ejections, and the heliospheric current sheet, complementing the data obtained by interplanetary spacecraft. We present examples of the valuable results that can be obtained from the amateur observations.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: geraint.h.jones@jpl.nasa.gov

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