International Comet Quarterly

Guidelines for authors (ICQ articles)

The International Comet Quarterly (ICQ) is a refereed journal devoted to news, observation, and research involving comets and cometary science. This means that *all* contributed data and text (articles, papers) for potential publication is refereed in some manner prior to publication in the ICQ. Unfortunately, a large percentage of contributed papers are never published because they do not adhere to a high standard of scientific excellence. But we work with contributing authors, via expert referees, to try and get papers into respectable order to allow eventual publication (and many papers initially rejected are indeed published after revision). Through this effort, the ICQ has a highly respected reputation, and indeed it is highly cited in both professional and amateur astronomy publications and websites.

Because we have limited staff, and refereeing is generally a volunteer effort (for which we thank many astronomers helping in this capacity!), it is in the best interests of the contributing authors to do three major things in advance of submission: (1) make sure the article is appropriate in scope for publication in the ICQ; (2) make sure that standard conventions are upheld, including those regarding designations of comets, citations, and proper use of units; and (3) make sure that several trusted astronomers read the text prior to submission, including especially those fluent in the English language if the originating author is uncomfortable with writing technical English text. Following these three suggestions will greatly speed up the progress of your manuscript through the editorial process, possibly cutting months (or years) off the delay in eventual publication.

Look at past issues of the ICQ carefully for the types of articles and styles in terms of comet designations and citations. Designations are to be given as they appear on all our ICQ webpages and in the ICQ printed text: unnumbered comets have their designation given at all times; the name may be given parenthetically the first time the comet is mentioned in an article, but then the name should not be given again after that (only the designation). Numbered comets should be given upon first mention with their xxxP designation and name (as xxxP/name), but after the first mention, it is entirely sufficient to simply use the number (with P) for later mentions (i.e., 1P is fine alone instead of "1P/Halley"). For pre-1995 comets, we encourage upon first mention in a paper to put the new designation first, followed by the name and old-style designations in parentheses -- e.g., C/1973 E1 (Kohoutek; O.S. 1973 XII = 1973f) -- and later mentions should only be to "C/1973 E1" (not "Kohoutek" or "1973f"). This ensures a professional uniformity to the text of the ICQ that is sadly missing from most professional journals (and especially from popular magazines) and aids the reader greatly. Note also that no numeral suffixes to numbered periodic comets should be used; such suffixed numerals (e.g., "29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1") were dropped at the end of 1999 in all ICQ usage due to their redundancy and lack of logic (thus, simply "29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann" is preferable) -- after all, such comets have the unique permanent prefixed number (such as "29P") that fully negates any need to recourse to the old, archaic suffixed numerals. Text that includes such numeral suffixes on comet names will be removed by the editor, and non-ASCII figures/tables containing such numeral suffixes will have to be removed before publication.

If you send text that requires superscripts, subscripts, math symbols, or diacritical marks (accents, umlauts, etc.), you will need to use the TeX conventions for this; see our TeX explanation webpage for more information. Text in italics (including journal/magazine titles) and bold-faced type (including volume numbers in references) should also be denoted by TeX commands -- e.g.

  {\it italic type}  and {\bf bold type}
(i.e., use of curly brackets enclose the text with special fonts).

We publish a wide variety of papers on comets -- from historical articles to those on light curves of comets, and sometimes rather technical papers with lots of mathematics. But an important theme is that the papers be properly (and preferably heavily) referenced, showing that the author has a command of other writings in the area of the submitted paper. It is always important to give credit for ideas to earlier authors, and it is always better to give too many references rather than too few citations to other work. Such citation also inspires the reader that the author has some credibility in writing his own text, by showing his knowledge of the work by others; the reverse is certainly true: if authors cite very little, it suggests that they may not have a good command of the topic at hand.

Citations are given in the text with the authors' last names and the year of publication parenthetically: (Jones and Smith 1980). References at the end of the text are then given alphabetically (and chronologically within a single author's writings), with the last name given before the first/middle initials for the first author only (other co-authors are given as first/middle initials then last name, separated by semi-colons). For example:


Jones, B.; and R. Smith (1980).  "Comets That Look Like Goats",
{\it A.J.} {\bf 55}, 1320.
Jones, B.; and R. Smith (1981).  "Comets That Look Like Bats",
{\it A.J.} {\bf 56}, 22.
Jones, B.; R. Smith; and G. W. Bush (1982).  "Comets That Look",
{\it A.J.} {\bf 57}, 332.
Jones, B.; and Z. Zucker (1983).  "Comets", in {\bf Comets} (ed. by B. Jones;

Note that journal references are given as
title V, p
where title is the journal title, V is the volume number, and p is the page number. If a magazine, such as Sky and Telescope (after their questionable change away from sequential page numbering through a given volume began), starts paging anew at page 1 for different issues within the same volume, put the issue number in parentheses after the volume number:
Jones, B. (2014).  "Pretty Comets", {\it Sky Telesc.} {\bf 113}(3), 55.


Units should generally be metric, though it is acceptable to use the unit "inches" for telescope apertures in text.

Regarding figures and tables, paper copies should be mailed to the Editor, along with a paper copy of the full text. We can accept jpeg or gif or tif files that are uu-encoded. Otherwise, it is best to post your figures at a website and send the URL to the Editor for downloading.

Many times computer software (especially Microsoft or Apple) is very incompatible with "the real world" in terms of e-mail, inserting many bad characters and not coping well with carriage returns at the ends of lines -- and this can create visual problems in e-mail messages received at the recipient's end. So it is important for text to be sent ALSO in paper form so that editors and referees will have the proper form of what was intended. Also, before sending ANY binary files containing figures or tables, the Editor should be contacted; these need to be sent by e-mail in universal computer format, not some format unique to specific operating systems such as Microsoft. And, of course, all text sent by e-mail MUST be in plain ASCII text (please turn off all right-justification, HTML-encoding, etc.). Please remember that the ICQ is run entirely off VMS and Unix operating systems; we do not have computers that are compatible with much of what Microsoft generates (such as Word files or .doc files).

Index to the CBAT/MPC/ICQ pages.