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BAA Journal 2018 October

Introducing the Comet Observation database (COBS)

Journal issue: 2018 October
Pages: 279–283

Introduction
Amateur comet observers can make a useful contribution to science by observing comets and submitting their observations. Professional astronomers do not have the time nor the telescopes needed to gather such data. The goal of every serious comet observer should be to publish their observations so that they are available for scientific research.
The International Comet Quarterly (ICQ) is one of the places where observers worldwide can submit their observations through country coordinators. In order that observations can be used for further analysis, the ICQ has introduced a standardised fixed column format in which the observations should be reported. In the year 2002 the 80-column format for visual observations was extended to 130 columns to cover information needed for CCD observations. This format has been widely accepted and is supported by the majority of analysis software currently available.
Less experienced observers often had difficulty formatting their observations into a correct ICQ observation line and for that reason their observations were not accepted by ICQ. To help observers and country coordinators, software was used that helped format the given input data into the correct ICQ observation line. Comet observers from Slovenia used a web-based form that helped observers correctly format their observations. This service was used from year 2002 and was active until 2008. In 2010 the website was upgraded to the newest database technology and a dynamic website was constructed. A decision by the maintenance team was made to share the website also with other comet observers worldwide and the new COBS website was introduced to the community in 2010 May.
The website has been very successful and has been generally accepted by the comet observing community. Many individual observers and associations have accepted COBS and decided to import their archive observations to the database. COBS currently represents the place where observers are encouraged to submit their observations. All the data stored in the database is freely available to the public, and can be used in scientific research.  (continued...)

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