DART Mission Project Presented at the Planetary Defense Conference at the United Nations in Vienna

Comet 29P's explosive activity being monitored with the help of Faulkes Telescope observers

Richard Miles is leading a worldwide observing campaign to try to understand the very unusal object Centaur/Comet 29P.  The observations being made through the Faulkes Telescope Project are a key part of that.  The graph shows how the comet's brightness can change very rapidly as material explodes from within the comet out into space, with the cloud (the coma) growing bigger over time as the material expands outwards.  Measuring of the speed of expansion can help us to understand the causes of the eruptions (Richard  believes tehy are caused by ice volcanoes).

The image by St Mary's School in Bridgend.

Check out the Mission webpage to see more great images, and more details of the study

and background on this strarnge object

Comet Chasers’ table in the Science Village
Figure 2: Comet 67P on the rotato. A light-curve was created from the intensity of the light reflected off it and into the webcam. Despite the dodgy experimental conditions, it turned out great.
 Map showing the comprehensive spread over Wales of the schools whose pupils submitted image request forms.
 (Gif) showing asteroid Didymos taken on 01/09/2022 as requested by Tola, Lili and Dyfan at the Eisteddfo

Comet Chasers at the National Eisteddfod of Wales

Cipwyr Comedau yn yr Eisteddfod Genhedlaethol

Cai Stoddard-Jones, a PhD student at Cardiff University and member of the Comet Chasers team tells us more..


After an absence of two years, the annual National Eisteddfod returned to celebrate all things Welsh: it consists of competitions in poetry, literature, composing music, singing, dancing, art - I could go on, but you get the drift! This year, it was hosted in Tregaron, Ceredigion at the beginning of August (as is tradition).


Amidst the rows of arts and shops, lies the Pentref Gwyddoniaeth (Science Village) – where nerds gather to engage kids about their area in STEM, be it at university stands, talks, or just as a mad scientist blowing stuff up! Among these was a Comet Chasers’ table, in a small hut which became unbearably hot.


Our Comet Chasers project focuses on using the 'Wow' factor of Space, particularly comets, to inspire children in their learning across the curriculum. It links schools with professional researchers and amateur astronomers around the world. Schools take images through the Faulkes Telescope Project (using the research-grade robotic telescopes in the Las Cumbres Observatory worldwide network). If these images are used by researchers, the schools are credited on published scientific articles – how exciting is that?!


We also provide supporting educational resources and hands-on experiments. We brought some of those for our stand.

On our stand: meteorites older than the Earth, IR cameras to facilitate experiments in different wavelengths making the invisible visible, and what drew most attention, would you believe it - a big, plush penguin! ‘What’s with the penguin?’ was probably the most common question. Well, this penguin was part of an experiment called ‘rotato’, and it was, in fact, our fake comet! (Our thanks to the Royal Astronomical Society for providing the funding to allow us to buy display size equipment and publicity materials!)


The rotato is an experiment to explain how astronomers can deduce a comet or asteroid’s shape, colour, size, rotational period and much more. Different colour surfaces reflect light differently, as do different shapes, sizes and textures!


To show this, we use our proxy comet – the penguin! The penguin spins on a turntable and a webcam detects how much light is being reflected off the penguin as it spins and plots a graph which is called a light-curve, and this is exactly what astronomers do to analyse asteroids and comets. (We also regularly rotate potatoes which look like asteroids – hence the ro-tato!) The curve is highest when the penguin reflects most light (the white belly facing the camera), and lowest for the black part. We even got to make a light-curve of a ‘real’ comet – a 3D printed model of comet 67P, kindly provided by Geraint Jones, who is leading the Comet Interceptor Mission.


We’ve got smaller rotato kits available for loan too – you can investigate light and reflectivity yourself by producing light curves of any object you have available. Visit for more information.

The second picture shows Comet 67P on the rotato. A light-curve was created from the intensity of the light reflected off it and into the webcam. Despite the dodgy experimental conditions, it turned out great.


In addition to the hands-on exhibits, we asked children if they wanted to assist with some real science and request their own images. We gave the choice of 4 comet/asteroid missions:


·         C/2014 UN271 – the big one

·         73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 – the fragmenting one

·         29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 – the active one

·         Asteroid system Didymos and Dimorphos – DART Mission’s target, so helping NASA save the planet!

Picture 3: Map showing the comprehensive spread over Wales of the schools whose pupils submitted image request forms. We hope this will encourage schools to get involved with the project too.


We received a total of 59 requests from 40+ different schools in Wales and beyond (we even had students from a Gaelic school in Glasgow and a school in Southern France!). Unsurprisingly, DART and ‘helping NASA’ was the most popular mission, so much so we had to stop taking requests for it.


The requests were grouped up into similar dates and submitted to LCO’s queue. Many of the observations have now been completed and we’re making them available for everyone to see at !

Picture 4 (Gif) showing asteroid Didymos taken on 01/09/2022 as requested by Tola, Lili and Dyfan at the Eisteddfod.


Children at the Eisteddfod seemed really interested in comets and excited at the prospect of being part of real-life science. I’m looking forward to developing more Comet Chasers Welsh language resources and we will absolutely be back there next year!


Diolch Eisteddfod, mi welai chi blwyddyn nesaf!

Know a school that would like to get involved with Comet Chasers?

Contact Cai Stoddard-Jones, for more information!

Cai Stoddard-Jones wins #PlanetaryScience4All Video Contest 2022

 Congratulations Cai! 

You can learn more about Cai's research and the comet chasers project in this great little video.

Montgomery School Comet Chasers

Great to see our comet chasers featured in their local paper ( !

Comet Chasers Team at International Planetary Science Conference

September 2022

This week members of the Comet Chasers Team (Helen, Cai, Tony and of course Chury) are at an international conference (EPSC2022) in Granada.  They are sharing their experiences of the project and learning from other projects.  Additionally they are catching up on all the latest research on comets and asteroids.

It is great to see observations from our schools being featured in presentations and posters.  

Data collected on Comet UN271 by St Mary's and Montgomery schools were included in a presentation by Dr Rosita Kokotanekova.

An image by St Mary's school was included in a presentation by Helen Usher on ProAm-Schools collaboration.

Helen also presented the Comet Chaser work she did with Ynysowen Community School for the partial solar eclipse as part of a session looking at live engagement with exciting astronomical events.  An image of the DART target asteroid system Didymos and Dimorphos taken by White Rose Primary School New Tredegar was also included. 

And finally, lots of schools' contributions in Cai Stoddard-Jones's poster - from St Mary's Bridgend and St Mary the Virgin, Cardiff.

And the Rotato is gathering lots of interest too!

Exciting times!

Comet Chasers - Prague 2022.pptx

Comet Chasers Team present to international conference

The Comet Chasers Team attended the Europlanet Pro-Am Comet Workshop in Prague in June, to present details of the project and its outcomes so far.

The presentation was very well received, with many particpants interested in working with the project in the future.

Already the first module is being translated into Italian for use with schools in Italy in the new school year.

Asteroid/Comet 248370 Observations

Active Asteroid/Comet 248370

Setting up Observations of the object from a classroom

Comet 29P Observations

December 2021

Schools are also involved in making observations for the Mission 29P campaign.  Take a look at this interesting object which keeps exploding!

Getting Ready to Chase Some Comets!

July 2021

Children in St Mary's Catholic Primary School Bridgend get briefing on their Comet Chasers Mission!