IAUC 6936 [1998 June 11] announced the establishment of an annual Edgar Wilson Award for the discovery of comets by amateur astronomers. Made possible by a generous bequest, the first Edgar Wilson Award of around 12,000 pounds, will be shared among astronomers who discover one or more comets as amateurs using amateur equipment during the year beginning 1998 June 11. Long interested in astronomy himself, Wilson was from Louisville, Kentucky, and died in 1976.

The Award shall be allocated annually among the amateur astronomers who, using amateur equipment, have discovered one or more new comets. Only comets officially named for their discoverers shall be included in the annual count. Since particular recognition is to be given to the amateurs who discover the most comets, identical fractions of the total Award funds shall be allocated for each comet with an eligible discoverer, except that if the same comet is credited to more than one independent eligible discoverer, each discoverer shall receive a full fraction. If the discovery is made as the result of information produced or prepared by some other person, it shall not qualify for consideration. Eligible discoveries may be made by visual, photographic or electronic means.

The Award shall be administered by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), as the beneficiary under the Will of Edgar Wilson of Lexington, KY. This administration shall specifically be through the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT), which, with the advice of the Small Bodies Names Committee (SBNC) of IAU Division III, has the responsibility for naming comets.

It is anticipated that the funds available for the first annual Award shall be approximately US$20 000 (twenty thousand dollars). For the purpose of this Award, a year shall be the period of twelve months beginning and ending on June 11.0 UT. The first Award shall be for the year ending on 1999 June 11.0. The Award shall be announced and made during the month of July following the end of each period.

To be eligible for the Award an individual must demonstrate:

  • 1. that he or she is acting in an amateur capacity, at least for the purpose of discovering the comet, and
  • 2. that only amateur, privately-owned equipment was used for the discovery.

    In years when there are no eligible comet discoverers, the Award shall be made instead to the amateur astronomer(s) judged by the CBAT to have made the greatest contribution toward promoting an interest in the study of comets.

    SAO employees associated with the CBAT, SBNC members, as well as members of their immediate families, are not eligible for the Award.

    The Edgar Wilson Award is international in scope, and nationals of no country are excluded from consideration. An observer who suspects he or she has discovered a comet shall ensure that his or her discovery report reaches the CBAT according to the usual procedures. The CBAT shall maintain the necessary records and may contact the discoverers for eligibility documentation.

    The decision of SAO (via the CBAT) is final and takes precedence over the description on this page.

    Hypothetical Example

    A rather contrived example shows most of the probable situations that can arise. In the year 2028, there were 13 discoveries of new comets:

  • C/2028 C1 (Papathanassiou); professional with professional telescope
  • C/2028 F1 (Oldfield); amateur
  • P/2028 F2 (Lennon-McCartney); two independent amateurs
  • C/2028 G1 (Harrison-Starr); two amateurs working together
  • P/2028 K1 (SONOFLINEAR); professional
  • C/2028 L1 (Papathanassiou); naked-eye discovery by professional in an entirely amateur capacity
  • C/2028 M2 (Oldfield); amateur
  • P/2028 O1 (Hail-Caesar); independent amateur and professional discovery
  • C/2028 S2 (Jarre); amateur locating comet on Palomar Sky Survey V
  • C/2028 T1 (Harrison); amateur while observing with the 1.5-m at Palomar
  • P/2028 U1 (Harrison-Clapton); joint amateur and professional discovery with professional equipment
  • C/2028 U2 (Harrison-Clapton); joint amateur and professional discovery with amateur equipment in an entirely amateur capacity
  • C/2028 X3 (Starr); amateur

  • In these examples the term 'amateur' alone means an amateur observing with amateur equipment. Similarly, 'professional' alone means a professional using professional equipment.
  • C/2028 G1 was by a team and is eligible for one share.
  • Although Papathanassiou is a professional, his discovery of C/2028 L1 is eligible because it was not using professional equipment.
  • C/2028 O1: Hail is eligible because he is an amateur, Caesar is not because he is a professional.
  • C/2028 S2 is not eligible because the information used for the discovery was prepared by someone else.
  • P/2028 U1 is not eligible because the discovery was not made with amateur equipment.
  • C/2028 U2 was by a team and is eligible for one share.

    The shares per discovery are then as follows:

                By comet                         By discoverer
    C/2028 C1 (Papathanassiou)     0       Oldfield        2   = 1+1
    C/2028 F1 (Oldfield)           1       Starr           1.5 = 0.5+1
    P/2028 F2 (Lennon-McCartney)   1+1     McCartney       1   = 1
    C/2028 G1 (Harrison-Starr)    0.5+0.5  Harrison        1   = 0.5+0+0+0.5
    P/2028 K1 (SONOFLINEAR)        0       Lennon          1   = 1
    C/2028 L1 (Papathanassiou)     1       Papathanassiou  1   = 0+1
    C/2028 M2 (Oldfield)           1       Hail            1   = 1
    P/2028 O1 (Hail-Caesar)        1+0     Clapton         0.5 = 0+0.5
    C/2028 S2 (Jarre)              0       SONOFLINEAR     0   = 0
    C/2028 T1 (Harrison)           0       Caesar          0   = 0
    P/2028 U1 (Harrison-Clapton)   0+0     Jarre           0   = 0
    C/2028 U2 (Harrison-Clapton)  0.5+0.5          Total   9
    C/2028 X3 (Starr)              1
                         Total     9       Estimated Award per share
                                           = 20000/9 = c. US$ 2222
    Just for interest's sake, if this award had been operating in recent years the number of eligible discoveries would be: 1995 award, 5; 1996 award, 6; 1997 award, 5; and 1998 award, 4.

    The 1999 Edgar Wilson Award was divided among the following six individuals or groups: Peter Williams, Heathcote, N.S.W., Australia, for C/1998 P1; Roy A. Tucker, Tucson, AZ, U.S.A., for P/1998 QP_54; Michael Jager, Weissenkirchen i.d. Wachau, Austria, for P/1998 U3; Justin Tilbrook, Clare, S.A., Australia, for C/1999 A1; Korado Korlevic and Mario Juric, Visnjan, Croatia, for P/1999 DN_3; and Steven Lee, Coonabarabran, N.S.W., Australia, for C/1999 H1. [IAUC 7223, 1999 July 14]