Five amateur astronomers will share the 2009 Edgar Wilson Award for comets they discovered, according to an August 22nd announcement on IAU Circular 9066 from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT).
Here's the list of winners, starting with the most recent find:
- Dae-am Yi (Korea), who discovered C/2009 F6, also known as Comet Yi-SWAN, on March 26, 2009. He used a Canon 5D camera and 90-mm f/2.8 telephoto lens.
- Koichi Itagaki (Japan), for capturing C/2009 E1 on March 14, 2009, with an 8.3-inch (21-cm) reflector at f/3.
- Michel Ory (Switzerland), for finding P/2008 Q2 on August 27, 2008, with a 24-inch f/3.9 reflector.
- Stanislav Maticic (Slovenia), for C/2008 Q1 on August 18, 2008, using a 24-inch f/3.3 telescope.
- Robert E. Holmes, Jr. (U.S.A.), for imaging C/2008 N1 on July 1, 2008, with a 16-inch f/5.8 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope.
Robert Holmes, profiled here, runs a sophisticated patrol for near-Earth asteroids from his home in Charleston, Illinois. Don't confuse his find with another Comet Holmes — the one that literally burst into view in late 2007. That was a returning interloper, originally spotted by Edwin Holmes of London back in 1892. Robert's new Comet Holmes was a feeble magnitude 20.2 when he detected it — and that's much fainter than even the world's largest telescopes, amateur or professional, could have reached in 1892!
In fact, none of the current prizewinners' comets was at all spectacular when found. That's the take-away message, I think, for aspiring comet hunters of today. These successes relied on CCD detectors, not film or visual sweeps of the night sky. Technology marches on.