What Is The International Comet Quarterly?
The International Comet Quarterly
) is a non-profit
scientific journal [ISSN 0736-6922] devoted to the observation, news,
and study of comets; it serves as a link between amateur and professional
astronomers in the exchange of useful observations (following a
standardized format) and news regarding all comets. The ICQ
was published at the
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
full-time from 1990 until early 2010 (part-time during 1980-1990).
Beginning in 2010, it is being published at the Earth and Planetary
Sciences Department at Harvard University. The ICQ
continuation of The Comet
, founded in March 1973, and The Comet
, assuming its present title and format in late 1978 (and
published by the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State
University until 1990).
is indexed in
Astronomy and Astrophysics Abstracts
and in Science Abstracts,
Sample pages and articles from the ICQ
are available online here.
The October 1996
issue was Number 100 in the publication's series (dating back to 1973), and it
contained many pages of observations and images of comets from observers
worldwide, plus articles on the history of total
visual magnitude methodology; on comets for the visual observer in 1997; on
the lives of two well-known comet observers, A. Mrkos and S. K. Vsekhsvyatskii;
and an index for the first 23 years of this publication. Coinciding with this
"century issue", minor planet (5865) 1984 QQ --- discovered on 1984 Aug. 31
by Antonin Mrkos --- has been named Qualytemocrina (a play on the letters
in the ICQ title; cf. Minor Planet Circular 28089).
Example of recent issues:
The October 2002 issue
contains an article on
the apparent disintegration of comet C/2002 O4, an article on comets
predicted to be observable visually in 2003, an obituary notice on the
comet discoverer Yuji Hyakutake, and descriptive and tabuluated
observations of comets; the July 2002 issue contained the first observations
of CCD photometry in the new extended format (which provides for inclusion
of information on the CCD cameras, software, and other important parameters),
and includes numerous CCD images of recent bright comets.
[Another example of contents is found in the July 1998 issue,
which contained an article on
the dust halos of comet C/1995 O1, news on the Edgar Wilson Award,
notice of a new catalogue of comet discoveries, and book reviews and
a movie review (along with more than 40 pages listing individual
observations -- tabulated and descriptive -- of recent comets)].
The ICQ publishes the following as its primary functions:
- Photometric observations of comets in tabulated format, including
and CCD magnitude estimates of comets with proper documentation; as such,
the journal serves to make widely available, in one convenient location,
observations made by observers worldwide, and also helps to provide the
scientific community with a respectable set of visual data from both
amateur and professional
astronomers. [This is to complement the astrometric observations of
comets published in the
Planet Circulars/Minor Planets and Comets and the
Researchers can receive e-mailed files of ICQ-formatted data
on a comet-by-comet basis via request to the Editor
- General review of recent studies and observations made of comets, including
news of discoveries/recoveries.
- Review and research articles by cometary astronomers on various aspects of
of articles for publication should see our guidelines for authors.
- Other observations of comets, including descriptive information and
images/drawings of comets.
- Other useful information for the comet observer or researcher, including
lists, recommendations, book reviews, etc. An
ICQ Guide to
Observing Comets was published in early 1997 as an aid to both
beginning and experienced (amateur and professional) observers of comets.
- The ICQ includes reproduction of CCD images,
photographs, and drawings of comets.
- General ephemerides for all observable comets (and some fainter
interesting comets, such as 1P/Halley and those slated for future visits
by spacecraft) are published in the annual
Handbook. This Handbook contains perhaps the best brightness
predictions of any comet ephemerides available anywhere, as magnitude parameters
are revised each year by utilizing all available comet data obtained over
the previous year.
- The ICQ has organized numerous Workshops on Cometary Astronomy
(WCAs) in the past two decades (including four in the U.S.,
in Europe, and one each in Asia and South America). These WCAs have been
designed to bring together amateur
and professional astronomers to discuss the on-going observation of comets
in a constructive co-working manner. The workshop highlights are usually
summarized in the ICQ, sometimes with a special issue of the journal
devoted to Workshop proceedings (papers).
The ICQ encourages authors to submit articles for publication in the
journal; there is a referee system, as with most scientific journals.
Actual computer images of comets (either obtained via CCD, or scanned into
electronic images from drawings or photographs) may be sent to the ICQ
for possible publication, but contact the Editor before sending images (e-mail
address below), and read our
on sending images.
Photometric observations should be contributed as noted below.
- How to subscribe
- We are gradually making various articles and data of past published issues
of the ICQ
available here on the
- The July 2009 quarterly issue of the ICQ is in preparation.
The 38-page April 2009 quarterly issue of the ICQ was mailed
on 2009 Oct. 14 and 15 to paying subscribers, along with
the 124-page 2009/2010 Comet Handbook.
The 42-page January 2009 quarterly issue of the ICQ was mailed
on 2009 Apr. 7 to paying subscribers.
The delayed 120-page 2008 Comet Handbook was mailed on 2009 Feb. 2 and 3
under the title 2008/2009 Comet Handbook,
containing ephemerides for 2008 (for historical purposes) and the first half of
2009 (through July).
[Other recent ICQ
The ICQ Archive of Photometric Data on Comets. The ICQ
maintains a computer database of photometric observations of comets, which
includes all observations published in the printed ICQ plus data
extracted from other journals (mostly historical, dating back to the 19th
century). Each observation is given on an 80-character (80-byte) ASCII
computer record with comet designation (this was expanded in 2002 to 129
columns for CCD observations); Universal Time (UT) year, month
and date (to 0.01 day); magnitude (usually total visual), magnitude method,
reference/source for comparison stars, and notes such as application of
correction for atmospheric extinction, etc.; instrument type, aperture,
and f/-ratio (and magnification, if visual) used for the observation;
coma diameter in arcmin, and the coma's degree of condensation (DC);
the tail length and position angle (in degrees); the reference indicating
where the observation was published; and a 3-letter, 2-digit code for the
Contributors of observations via e-mail should read
this instruction sheet
for the proper format. Never, ever use keyboard "TABs" when
sending data of any sort to another person, because such characters will
mess up regular ASCII files! The special codes used in this tabulation
for such things as type of instrument, magnitude method, comparison-star
reference, and notes are available
here in the
Keys to Abbreviations
used in the ICQ archival tabulation. Information not easily put
into tables are published in textual form in each issue of the
ICQ as supplemental descriptive data; such information should
be contributed separately from the tabulated data, listed
by comet and then chronologically by UT date/time.
When a comet is less than 20 or 30 degrees from the observer's true
horizon, and he or she is making a total visual magnitude estimate of the
comet (which is done
via comparison with a de-focussed nearby star whose known magnitude is taken
from an appropriate catalogue), the observer needs to appropriately correct
his observed value for atmospheric extinction. A standard procedure
recommended by the ICQ and published in the July 1992 issue of the
ICQ is now available
Having troubles seeing comets because of all the artificial lights? Check
out our page on light