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Comet hunters - discoverers

  1. Uraniya Astro Society Moscow, Russia 09 August 2014 Amar A. Sharma Nikaya Observatory Bangalore, India
  2. *Got sparked by astronomy around 2000 – 10th class. Began practically from 2002 after seeing very dark skies outside Bangalore *Comets main passion within astronomy: observing, sketching, imaging, history, literature, biographies…and dreaming! *Was an extremely active Deep-Sky Observer from 2005 to 2008 with an observing partner Akarsh Simha. Observed as many comets all through. *Actively involved in public outreach from 2008 to 2011 or so with BAS club. Taken astronomy to few thousand people through star parties and sidewalk astronomy. *Working individually since late 2011 as amateur astronomer-in- charge at Nikaya Observatory – India’s first privately owned large public observatory. Taken astronomy to around 1000 people, mainly students
  3. * Back then observed 250 galaxies, 75 globular clusters with medium aperture (8-inch mainly). Inclined to binocular observing like 10x50 and 25x100 * Total comet count ~60: informal visual 38 / ccd ~20 * Visually hunted for comets only 5-6 hours with small apertures. Need to start seriously, visual or ccd. Persisting dream for 10 years: Discover comets!! * Accidentally discovered a Mira type variable while wanting to image Pluto on ccd camera in July 2012 * In 2012 started working on world history of 20th century comet hunting: 70 comet hunters, 9 countries, 150 years!! Contacted nearly every comet hunter through email. Will be a multi-volume Encyclopedia * Desperately trying to make a documentary film on veteran / aged comet discoverers: those aged 85 years and in the passing… We lost Albert Jones (93) and William Bradfield (86) who were part of my planned documentary film! * In 2013 started writing a book on passion and spirit of amateur astronomy – the deepest book that could be! Completed 550 pages, 100 more remain!
  4. * I divide it according to zones: * West USA / Canada * Central United Kingdom / Lithuania / Rest of Europe / Russia / South Africa * East Japan / Australia / New Zealand
  5. * There was lot of competition in the 20th century comet hunting in the USA: Edward Barnard Lewis Swift William Brooks Joel Metcalf John Mellish Robert van Arsdale Leslie Peltier and others… Maria Mitchell – America’s first lady comet hunter + discoverer & world’s second lady comet hunter + discoverer [C/1847 T1 (Mitchell)]
  6. * BORN: 1948 – present. USA JOB: Astronomer at Jarnac Observatory, author of 30+ books, multi-faceted astronomer Inspired by Comet Ikeya-Seki and began his comet hunting in 1965 Discoverer of 23 comets! Over 60 asteroids
  7. * First comet in 1984 after 917 hours of hunting Paired with the famous Shoemaker couple to use Palomar Observatory Discovered the famous Comet SL-9 which slammed into Jupiter; first time we saw a celestial catastrophe Asteroid 3673 Levy (1985 QS) named in honour by Dr Edward Bowell from Lowell Observatory
  8. * BORN: 1952 – present. USA. JOB: R&D technician in a laser & optics company. Independent real estate appraiser / agent Started comet hunting on New Year’s 1975. His equipment have been 11-cm f5 reflector / 25 cm f3.8 mirror. 6.2" binoculars / 18" f4.8 reflector 1st comet discovered after 1700 hours of hunting. 2nd comet discovered after 1742 hours. Total hunting 7600 hours!! Discovered 11 comets
  9. *Hunted comet for over 500 hours but stopped Discoverer of famous Comet Hale-Bopp. Accidental discovery Professional turned amateur astronomer Has observed more than 500 returns of same comets or different comets Countdown to 500 comets program
  10. * BORN: 1950 – present. USA JOB: Ex-Librarian at University of South California's Gerontology Centre Joined Palomar Observatory in 1983 to use the 60-inch telescope Assigned observer on the Second Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS-II)
  11. * She holds by far the record for supernovae discoveries by a woman: 49 supernovae, 9 unusual asteroids, 5 comets Only 4 other professional astronomers have found more supernovae - Fritz Zwicky 122, Charles Kowal 83, Christian Pollas and Paul Wild 48
  12. * Late Eugene Shoemaker was a planetary geologist at USGS Carolyn picked up astronomy and started working herself Discovered around 32 comets (?) They formed a historic team with David Levy and his wide Wendee Levy at Palomar Observatory Team discovered the famous Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 which impacted onto Jupiter in 1994
  13. * BORN: 1931 – 1993. USA Burnham Jr joined the Lowell Observatory to work on Proper Motion Survey of Stars. His team had identified 9000 high-motion stars, 1500 asteroids & 2000 new white-dwarf suspects Best known for his Burnham’s Celestial Handbooks Discovered 6 comets Had a very tragic ending. Got mentally imbalanced and was found roaming the streets
  14. * OTHER DISCOVERERS * Howard Brewington discovered 5 comets * Michael Rudenko discovered 1 comet (2?) * Patrick Stonehouse discovered 1 comet * Roy Tucker, a modern day minor planet hunter also discovered 1 comet (2?) apart from hundreds of asteroids * Clyde Tombaugh, the famous discoverer of Pluto, also happened to discover 2 comets (1?) while his photographic searches (number unsure?) at Lowell Observatory
  15. * * Rolf Meier discovered 4 comets Was among the first to use a large aperture, 16-inch f/5 reflector (belonging to their club RASC), for comet hunting in contrary to the belief that smaller equipment with wider field of view was the preferred equipment His 1st comet was actually easily visible for over a year. It was among the largest known comets based on its intense intrinsic brightness Rolf quotes, "Infact I was able to spot my first comet which I discovered even on the day I found my second comet!" * Doug George discovered 1 comet
  16. * Began astronomy career as a devoted assistant to her brother William Herschel Started her own survey of the sky noting DSOs Started comet hunting Discovered 8 comets! First woman comet hunter & discoverer in history Maria Mitchell of US was the second comet hunter & discoverer with only 1 comet discovery
  17. * BORN: 1848 - 1931. UK Doyen (father-figure) of British amateur astronomers Pioneer of meteor astronomy Keen planetary visual observer. Did extensive work on Jupiter & Saturn observations Discoverer of Nova Aquilae in 1918 & Nova Cygni in 1920 First President of the BAA Discoverer of 4 comets
  18. * BORN: 1912 – 2000. UK JOB: School Teacher Simply the greatest visual observer who lived Memorized 25,000 stars through star patters in order to identify new stars in the eyepiece! Discovered 5 comets Discovered 5 novae
  19. * Contributed to meteor observing before radio meteor observers halted his work by their technology He was feeling he is going to get lucky one night and he was not surprised when he went out and actually discovered a nova! Discovered Nova Herculis 1991 (V838 Her) from his house window using just a 10x50 binoculars His last comet C/1983 H1 (IRAS- Araki-Alcock) was the 3rd closest comet to Earth in history!!
  20. * OTHER DISCOVERERS: * Roy Panther discovered a comet on Christmas Day of 1980 after 33 years and 600 hours of comet hunting * Michael Candy discovered Comet Candy 1961 II from his window Asteroid 3015 Candy named in his honour
  21. * Skalnaté Pleso Observatory, on Mount Lomnicky Stit on Tatra Mountains, was known for producing its Star Atlases Established during World War II Dr Antonin Bečvář was the founder First professional comet hunting survey. They used 25x100 Somet-Binnar binoculars (Zeiss optics)
  22. * Between 1946 & 1959, 5 observers found 18 comets Antonin Mrkos found 11 new comets in 11 years The lady comet hunter L’udmilla Pajdušáková found 5 new comets Other observers were: Mrkos. Kresák, and the lady Vozárová
  23. * BORN: 1958 – present. Lithuania JOB: Stellar Astronomer at Institute of Vilnius Comet hunting from 1977 to 2007 From 1978 till 1996 he observed in Mount Maidanak, Uzbekistan, quite often Very difficult observing conditions at Mt. Maidanak: No telephone, no circular, no telegram Discovered 3 comets totaling 2000 hours! Discovered 1 nova: Nova Cygni 1975
  24. * Fyodor Aleksandrovich Bredikhin – Father of Russian comet astronomy. Known for his study of comet tails DISCOVERERS: * Sergey Ivanovich Belyavsky - bright naked-eye comet C/1911 S3 (Beljawsky) * Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh - two periodic comets 74P/Smirnova-Chernykh and 101P/Chernykh * Grigory Abramovich Shajn & Pelageya Shajn * Grigory Nikolayevich Neujmin * Tamara Mikhaylovna Smirnova Comet Jurlof-Achmarof-Hassel – last 2 discoverers are Russian
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  27. * Of the 57 comet discoveries in that period, 38 were made in the 30- year period from 1920–1950 in South Africa Most interesting discovery of a comet by a South African would be of C/1961 V (Wilson-Hubbard) Miss Anna Ras, a South African Airways stewardess! Most prolific of SA comet discoverers were: * William Reid with 6 discoveries * Michiel Bester with 6 discoveries * Daniel du Toit with 5 discoveries * Jack Bennett discovered 1 good comet (also had distinction of being the first amateur to visually discover an extra-gaalctic supernova in M83)
  28. *SOUTH AFRICAN DISCOVERERS: J F Skjellerup - not a South African national but an Australian G E Ensor - amateur T B Blathwayt - amateur Alexander Forbes - amateur Clement Taylor - amateur William Reid - amateur Jack Bennett - amateur Reginald de Kock - amateur Jose Campos - amateur, now lives in his native Portugal [the only alive comet discoverer from SA] E L Johnson - professional Cyril Jackson - professional Hendrik van Gent - professional, not a South African national Daniel du Toit - professional, night assistant at Boyden Observatory Michiel Bester - professional, night assistant at Boyden Observatory
  29. * In my estimate, the number of comet hunters in the 20th century in Japan alone were equal to or more than the number of comet hunters all over the world!!!
  30. * BORN: 1930 – 1991 Discovered 12 comets Discovered 11 novae Inspired Tsutomu Seki and Kaoru Ikeya, who in turn inspired generations of comet hunters In 1941, he was sent to the Pacific War. From the middle of Singapore battle-field he comet hunted and actually recovered periodic comet Grigg-Skjellerup after getting the message out!!
  31. * BORN: 1930 – present. Japan JOB: Private Guitar instructor / tutor Got inspired into comet hunting by senior Japanese hunter Minoru Honda’s discovery of 45/P Honda-Mrkos- Pajdusakova Did comet hunting for 1000 hours in the 1950s but was not having much hope Started with a new search strategy and telescope. Found first comet in 1961 with a 3.5” refractor
  32. * Second comet C/1962 C1 (Seki-Lines) was very bright and reached naked-eye visibility Third comet, most famous, C/1965 S1 (Ikeya-Seki) was a Sungrazer and reached -7 magnitude (?) Discovered 6 comets (2 of them very bright) At Geisei Observatory, he has observed (imaged) 3000 asteroids & discovered 223 asteroids Works for public outreach at Geisei Observatory
  33. *BORN: 1943 – present. Japan JOB: Worked at a Piano factory Interested after seeing Comet Arend-Roland and Mrkos Had a difficult early life and poor family background Discovered 7 comets Few in historic co-discoveries with fellow country person Tsutomu Seki Most famous comet: C/1965 S1 (Ikeya-Seki)
  34. * BORN: 1962 – present. Japan JOB: Scientist at Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute Discovered 2 comets: C/2002 E2 (Snyder-Murakami) C/2010 V1 (Ikeya-Murakami) Narrowly missed C/2006 T1 (Levy)
  35. * BORN: 1928 – 2014. New Zealand JOB: Rocket Scientist at Department of Defense Weapons Systems Research Lab Saw Comet Bennett and got inspired towards comet hunting Purchased a 100-year-old 6-inch f/5.5 telescope for just $60 (AUD) Discovered 18 comets. All only Comet Bradfields! Totaled 3000 hours! Discovered first comet after 260 hours of hunting. Discovered 14 comets with the 6” refractor. Discovered 4 comets with a 10” reflector
  36. * AWARDS: Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 for his services to science Berenice Page Medal of the ASSA in 1981 for his contribution to the discovery and understanding of comets Received the Edgar Wilson Award for his comet discovery C/2004 F4 (Bradfield) in 2004 Asteroid 3430 Bradfield (1980 TF4) named in honour of him, discovered by Carolyn S. Shoemaker
  37. * BORN: (could not find out. But presently alive). Australia JOB: Retired… University Extension lecturing in Philosophy Inspired after seeing Comet Ikeya-Seki of 1965 Possessed quite a few equipment for comet observing He has made hundreds of visual comet estimates. Several hundred are of Comet Halley and Hale-Bopp alone
  38. * Started comet hunting in late 1964. Stopped since about 2009. Hunted totally around 600-700 hours in active days Discovered C/1978 XV (Seargent) in 1978 with 15x80 binoculars
  39. * BORN: 1966 – present. Australia JOB: IT server infrastructure at an IT company in Australia Discovered 3 comets: * C/2007 E2 (Lovejoy) - Canon 350D DSLR with 200mm f2.8 lens * C/2007 K5 (Lovejoy) - Canon 350D DSLR with 200mm f2.8 lens * C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) - 8-inch Celestron Hyperstar + CCD
  40. * Terry is the first person to: * Discover a comet with a DSLR * Find SOHO comets outside of SOHO itself using their internet images * Find a Kreutz Sungrazer comet from the ground * Find a Kreutz Sungrazer comet from space based images Received 3 Edgar Wilson Awards for each of his comet discoveries Asteroid 61342 Lovejoy named after him
  41. * BORN: 1962 – present. Australia JOB: Senior Director of R&D at a U.S. based software company C/1996 Q1 (Tabur) C/1997 N1 (Tabur) C/2003 T3 (Tabur)
  42. * BORN: 1920 – 2013. New Zealand. JOB: Worked at oat-processing mill, grocery shop owner, car assembly factory Greatest visual variable observer of all time! Only person on the planet to have made 500,000 variable star estimates!!! Made his first variable star estimate in 1943 of Nova Puppis 1942. Continued it until his old age in his 90s. Career spanning 7 decades!!
  43. * TELESCOPES 5” f/15 Calver reflector purchased in 1941 5.5” refractor purchased in 1945 12.5” f/5 reflector purchased in 1948 Actively contributed visual comet magnitude estimates to BAA Comet Section in UK. Activity in 1950 was below average back in UK but a good part of comet estimates were coming from NZ by Albert Jones Was not a comet hunter but spent few hours comet hunting. Turned to his main passion of variable stars
  44. * Independently recovered periodic Comet P/Kopff in 1945 and periodic Comet P/Grigg- Skjellerup in 1952 Accidentally discovered 2 comets while variable star observing * Comet 1946 VI - while observing * C/2000 W1 (Utsunomiya-Jones) – while observing T Apodis Independently discovered the supernova SN 1987A in LMC by naked-eyes
  45. * AWARDS: * First Murray Geddes Memorial Prize in 1945 for variable star work * ASP’s Donhoe Comet Medal in 1947 for discovery of Comet 1946 VI * ASP’s Bronze Medal in 1973 continuing observations of cometary magnitudes * Donovan Medal and Prize for discovery of Comet 1946 VI * Michaelis Gold Medal and prize from the University of Otago in 1956 * Merlin Silver Medal and Prize in 1968 for establishing accurate magnitudes of comets * RAS' Jackson-Gwilt Medal in 1960
  46. * AWARDS: * Amateur Achievement Award of the ASP in 1998 for variable star and comet observations * Award of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1987 * Edgar Wilson Award for C/2000 W1 (Utsunomiya-Jones) * Doctor of Science from the Victoria University of Wellington in 2004 Asteroid (3152) Jones named in his honour by Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin from Mt. John Observatory in 1988
  47. * Today 9th August is late Albert Jones’ 94th birthday!!!
  48. * BORN: 1945 – present. New Zealand. JOB: Worked at Taranaki Newspapers. Also served as the staff of Mt John Observatory Discovered 3 comets * C/1982 M1 (Austin) – found after 151 hunting hours over 13 years * C/1984 N1 (Austin) * C/1989 X1 (Austin) C/1989 X1 (Austin) was expected to reach easy naked- eye visibility but it did not live up to expectations
  49. * This is the only sport of astronomy where awards have been granted to discoverers since 17th century till date! To encourage amateur comet discoveries
  50. * INTERNATIONAL MEDALS Joseph Jerome de Lalande 1800 – 1807 Frederick VI, King of Denmark 1831 - 1848 Academy of Vienna 1869 – 1880 [David Levy quotes 30 years] Warner Prize 1881 – 1888 Donohoe Medal 1889 – 1950 / 1968 – 1974 Tuthill Comet Award 1977 – 1987 Edgar Wilson Award 1998 – NATIONAL MEDALS Astronomical Society of Japan’s Medals 1936 –
  51. * Amateur astronomers who are comet hunters are so passionate about what they do, they will never stop! Discovering a comet is very rare and monetary awards are not an incentive for them. They do it because their heart compels them to do so Today the era of visual hunting – the old fashioned way of looking into the eyepiece – has nearly come to an end. Professional surveys have taken over Amateurs are now using CCD equipment and looking for comets They keep surprising with the exciting bright comet finds they make, like the recent Comet Lovejoy & Comet ISON
  52. Amar A. Sharma Bangalore, India Contact: +91-9535098126 Work for Public Outreach at Nikaya Observatory (private facility)