ESA’s solar satellite, SOHO, has become the best comet spotter the world has ever known. When SOHO’s latest solar images are posted on the Internet, astronomers and space enthusiasts alike are thrilled when they spot evidence of new comets that have never been seen before as they pass close to the Sun. Since SOHO’s launch in 1995, 435 new comets have been discovered. And, in the very near future, the 500th new comet will be found.

To celebrate these amazing achievements, the SOHO team at ESA/NASA has launched a competition for the public to predict the exact date and time of the discovery of SOHO-500 – the 500th comet found from a SOHO image. The person giving the closest guess will win a big bag of SOLARMAX goodies – a SOLARMAX DVD Collector Edition (the 40-minute giant-screen documentary telling the story of humankind’s struggle to understand the Sun), a SOLARMAX T-shirt and poster.

To help you make an educated guess, the competition organisers have come up with some strategies to use when making your prediction. They recommend that you look at the number of comets that have been discovered by SOHO watchers every year or every month since its launch, and then use these figures to calculate an average, which could help you work out future discovery dates. Alternatively, just guess. But hurry, because the competition closes at 04:00 UT on 1 June 2002.

For full details of this competition visit the SOHO-500 comet competition web pages.

  • Full details of the SOHO-500 comet competition
  • More about SOLARMAX
  • How to discover comets with SOHO
  • More about SOHO