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Discoveries made by Amateur-astronomers

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#1 PhilCo126

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:09 PM

I'm trying to compile a listing of "firsts" in the many fields amateur-astronomers are involved:

Amateur astronomy accomplishments
Compiled by Philip Corneille

Since 1979, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) awarded the Amateur Achievement Award for significant observational or technical achievements by an amateur astronomer.

Aurorae & noctilucent clouds:
Auroral activity has always amazed amateur-astronomers, especially the Scandinavians.
URSA = Ursa Astronomical Association

Comets:
In March 1993, together with David Levy, Carolyn & Gene Shoemaker discovered comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 (D/1993 – F2) which impacted the planet Jupiter in July 1994.

Exo-planets:
In September 2003, using a C14 & SBIG ST-7 CCD camera, Belgian amateur astronomer Tonny Vanmunster observed the transit of HD 209458b in front of its parent star.
Other amateur-astronomer who co-discovered exo-planets include: Ron Bissinger (USA), Bruce Gary (USA), Chris Holmes (Great Britain), Paul Howell (USA), Peter Jalowiczor (Great Britain), Jennie McCormick (New Zealand), Rolf Olsen (New Zealand).
Systemic is an amateur extrasolar planet search project.

Galaxy Zoo:
In the age of the WWW, amateur-astronomers made some online discoveries:
In 2007, Dutch amateur-astronomer Hanny Van Arkel found a “Hanny’s object” a gas-cloud heated by a black hole in the constellation Leo Minor.
Many contributors discovered unusual “Green Pea” objects which were categorized as a distinct group of galaxies.

Meteors:
Large amateur-astronomer societies have Meteor monitoring groups.
AMS = American Meteor Society (since 1911)
IMO = International Meteor Organization (since 1988)

Moon:
During the 1950s, British amateur-astronomer Sir Patrick Moore mapped the nearside of the Moon and especially the far edges thanks to the oscillationg motion (Libration) which allows us to see 59% of the Moon’s surface. His detailed observations were used in the preparations for (un-)manned missions to the Moon.

Occultations:
Observations of Lunar & minor planet occultations yielded evidence for satellites of minor planets long before the Galileo spacecraft photographed Dactyl as a satellite of asteroid 243 Ida in August 1993 (discovered on photos in February 1994).
ILOC = International Lunar Occultation Center
IOTA = International Occultation Timing Association

Planets:
In June 2009, Australian amateur-astronomer Anthony Wesley observed a flash of a collision onto the cloud deck of the planet Jupiter.
ALPO = Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers

Sun:
In 1981, the Royal Observatory of Belgium founded the Sunspot Index Data Center (SIDC).
The German VdS Vereinigung der Sternfreunde made long-time contributions to solar observing.

Supernovae:
Most nova were discovered by accident:
In 1054, Arab and Chinese astronomers observed SN 1052 (Crab nebula) in the constellation Taurus.
In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe saw SN 1572 in the constellation Cassiopeia.
In 1942, a Japanese schoolgirl Kuniko Sofue observed Nova Puppis 1942 (CP Puppis in Argo Navis).
In 1981, Australian amateur-astronomer Robert Evans observed his first supernova in a series of ten official discoveries.
In 2011, Canadian amateur-astronomer Dave Lane observed 2010lt which was found on photos by 10-year old schoolgirl Kathryn Gray discovered in the constellation Camelopardalis

Telescope design:
In the late 1950s, Canadian amateur-astronomer John Dobson revolutionized observing with the invention of the affordable Dobson reflector, used for side walk astronomy. He discovered 22 comets.

Variable stars:
Several amateur-astronomers joined up in societies to monitor variable stars.
AAVSO = American Association of Variable Star Observers
AFOEV = Association Francaise d’Observateurs d’Etoiles Variables
ASSA = Astronomical Society of Southern Africa
BAV = Bundesdeutsche Arbeidsgemeinschaft fur Veranderliche Sterne
CBA = Center for Backyard Astrophysics
IAPPP = International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry
RASNZ = Variable Star section of Royal Astronomical Society New Zealand

Contributions & corrections welcome !

#2 barasits

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:58 PM

I believe the Soap Bubble nebula was an amateur discovery. See the July 2010 issue of Sky & Telescope.

Amateur astronomer Grote Reber was a pioneer in radio astronomy. I think he's credited with radio astronomy's first sky survey.

Geoff

#3 David Knisely

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:48 PM

PhilCo126 wrote:

Telescope design:
In the late 1950s, Canadian amateur-astronomer John Dobson revolutionized observing with the invention of the affordable Dobson reflector, used for side walk astronomy. He discovered 22 comets.


Actually, John Dobson was born in China and then moved to San Francisco, California, so he wasn't Canadian. Also, I do not believe that John has discovered many comets (let alone 22 of them). Clear skies to you.

#4 llanitedave

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 10:05 PM

Yeah, the Canadian connection took me a bit aback, too.

#5 ColoHank

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 10:57 PM

There's ample evidence that native American Indians on this side of the pond also recorded the Crab Nebula supernova of 1054 AD in their rock art.

#6 Rick Woods

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:02 AM

Also, who was that guy who discovered a small nebula near Orion a few years ago, and now it's named after him? I can't believe I don't remember his name! He discovered it on an image he took with a small apo.

And let us not forget amateurs such as Galileo, Herschel, and Lord Rosse, and all the stuff they discovered.

#7 gavinm

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:03 AM

Jennie McCormick is not really an amateur - her gear has been provided by CBA and Ohio State University to collect data for them. That in my mind makes her professional.

Stu Parker (of NZ) is truely an amateur (full-time farmer) who has discovered several Supernovae.

I can think of a few more NZ amateurs - where to start :)

#8 Rick Woods

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:43 PM

I'm an amateur, and I discovered that I can't really afford this hobby! :p

#9 FeynmanFan

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:20 PM

I remember reading quite some time ago of a fellow in New Zealand, a man of the cloth, I believe, who discovered many supernovae. It was said that he had committed lots of star fields to memory, so he easily recognized anything new. Since I don't remember his name, my memory is clearly nothing like his. :( Rev. Knowles sticks in my head, but I may well be wrong.

#10 gavinm

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:55 PM

There is Rev Robert Evans - discovered 43 supernovae, but he's Australian - better not get that confused ;)

#11 FeynmanFan

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 06:39 PM

he's Australian - better not get that confused ;)


Dang right! I'd hate to see my avatar go down in flames. Now I remember Rev Knowles is the man who instructed me prior to my confirmation. I was only off by 12,000 mi. :tonofbricks:

#12 barasits

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 07:16 PM

...I was only off by 12,000 mi.


That's a bull's eye in astronomical terms. ;)

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#13 PhilCo126

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 08:10 AM

Interesting weblink: http://www.astronomy...ks/BAA DVD.html

#14 Ptarmigan

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:31 PM

Same with the 1006 AD supernova near Beta Lupi. It is the brightest supernova known.

#15 Jason H.

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:05 PM

Mikolaj Kopernik (A.K.A. Nicolaus Copernicus) was an amateur astronomer. :)

Jason H.

#16 StupendousMan

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Posted 09 March 2012 - 10:33 PM

Also, who was that guy who discovered a small nebula near Orion a few years ago, and now it's named after him? I can't believe I don't remember his name! He discovered it on an image he took with a small apo.


Jay McNeil.

#17 nytecam

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 12:09 PM

Interesting 'list' Phil if incredibly American biased. To include meteors and aurora etc without unique discoveries is pointless - these have all been observered since antiquity.

You may like to check the Royal Astro Soc [London] founded 1820 and British Astronomical Association [BAA] founded 1890 for some firsts - the latter to include current top amateur SN discoverer Tom Boles. I'm sure other national amateur bodies around the would could add to the list. Virtually ALL astronomers pre-1890 were amateurs. Good luck in your quest ;)

#18 lunar

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 11:08 AM

Also, who was that guy who discovered a small nebula near Orion a few years ago, and now it's named after him? I can't believe I don't remember his name! He discovered it on an image he took with a small apo.


I believe you're referring to McNeil's Nebula? It's a variable nebula in M78 that was discovered by Jay McNeil with a small 3" Apo-refractor while he was testing it out for the first time.

Here's an image by Adam Block & a bit of background on the region: http://apod.nasa.gov...d/ap040219.html

#19 PhilCo126

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 10:42 AM

Another opportunity for Amateur-astronomers:
A partnership with the UK’s Faulkes Telescope Project promises to boost the Agency’s space hazards research while helping students to discover potentially dangerous space rocks.
ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme is keeping watch over space hazards, including disruptive space weather, debris objects in Earth orbit and asteroids that pass close enough to cause concern.
So ESA is turning to amateur astronomers to ‘crowdsource’ observations as part of Europe’s contribution to the global asteroid hunt. These efforts will add to the follow-up observations already done at ESA’s own telescope on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

#20 PhilCo126

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 03:10 PM

Check:
The Prairie Astronomy Club: Fifty Years of Amateur Astronomy
by Mark Dahmke

#21 deSitter

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 04:25 PM

There is available to the amateur these days, powerful enough equipment to do real work, essential work, such as quasar surveys. A big Dob and a spectroscope and lots of patience are all that is needed. The big professional scopes do not have time for this. In particular, quasar censuses in the neighborhoods of active galaxies are critically needed.

-drl

#22 great lesson

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Posted 15 June 2012 - 05:33 PM

There is available to the amateur these days, powerful enough equipment to do real work, essential work, such as quasar surveys. A big Dob and a spectroscope and lots of patience are all that is needed. The big professional scopes do not have time for this. In particular, quasar censuses in the neighborhoods of active galaxies are critically needed.

-drl


I just starting reading "redshifts, cosomolgy, and academic science " by Halton Arp. That is the message that I am getting from the book - more looking is needed and if the professional can't do it then let the amateurs take a crack at it

#23 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 11:29 PM

In '98-'99 I found several open cluster candidates using 10X50 binos. I used the Hipparcos and Tycho data to construct color-magnitude diagrams and examine commonality of proper motions. These objects are listed in Archinal and Hynes' book, Star Clusters. Not long after I stumbled on these groups, Bruno Alessi found nearly all of the same ones after systematically searching the entire Tycho catalog, and subsequently published a paper in A&A. At that time I was preparing a paper of my own, regarding what is now officially known as Alessi 1.

This group is virtually certainly a true cluster, and fairly old at about 1 billion years. Of the 6 red giant candidates, 4 have essentially identical radial velocity, as measured by astronomer David Latham. (I was introduced to Latham by the referee who reviewed the first draft of my paper.) The other 2 are somewhat discrepant, but this could be due to binarity.

I noted that this group had a position on the sky, distance, proper motions and age that suggested that it could be related to the cluster NGC 752. Assuming the two groups were born from the same cloud complex, and utilizing the epicycle approximation of Galactic orbits, I predicted the then unknown radial velocity, which a couple of years later was the very value Latham measured. Of course, this could still be coincidental, but I *feel* the possibility of coevality is perhaps better than even.

One of the cluster candidates, in Vulpecula and not far from the Veil nebula on the sky, can be seen with the unaided eye in a dark sky.

#24 JKoelman

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 12:39 AM

Not long after I stumbled on these groups, Bruno Alessi found nearly all of the same ones after systematically searching the entire Tycho catalog, and subsequently published a paper in A&A. At that time I was preparing a paper of my own, regarding what is now officially known as Alessi 1.

Sometimes life is unfair! Did you still get your paper published? Can you maybe share a link?

#25 GlennLeDrew

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Posted 18 June 2012 - 03:14 AM

Johannes,
The paper (which I titled, "Discovery of an Old Open Cluster in Cassiopeia", didn't get far. The first draft was rejected, the referee suggesting that I obtain radial velocity measurements to buttress my case, hence the introduction to Dr. Latham. I should have re-worked it in spite of having been 'scooped.' The original version resides on one of my older computers as a Word doc, and has not been uploaded anywhere on the web.






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