David Aguilar
(617) 495-7462

Christine Pulliam
(617) 495-7463


CfA Press Release

Release No.: 98-15


Cambridge, MA -- A new annual award, designed to encourage and promotecometary astronomy, will honor amateur astronomers who discover newcomets. The Edgar Wilson Award, named for a late Kentucky businessmanwith a love for the heavens, will provide as much as $20,000 annuallyto be distributed among eligible discoverers.

Every amateur discoverer of a comet whose name is officially assigned tothat comet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) qualifies for aportion of the total prize money. Thus, the more comets that a personfinds during any year, the greater the portion of the prize money thathe or she will receive. Or, in the unlikely case that only one new cometis discovered by one person in an amateur capacity, then its recognizeddiscoverer will receive the year's entire award. In years when there areno eligible comet discoveries, the award will be made instead to theamateur astronomer or astronomers judged to have made the greatestcontribution toward promoting an interest in the study of comets. Theofficial "counting" for this year's award began at 8 p.m. Eastern DaylightTime on June 10, 1998 (midnight Greenwich Mean Time). The first awardwill be announced on or about July 1, 1999.

The award will be administered by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatorythrough the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT), which hasserved for 75 years as the clearinghouse for the announcement and namingof all new comets, and which is operated for the IAU at the SmithsonianInstitution's branch in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

An observer who finds a new comet must ensure, as has been the case fordecades, that his or her discovery report reaches the CBAT according tothe usual procedures, which are outlined on the World Wide Web athttp://www.cfa.harvard.edu/iau/CometDiscovery.html. Official announcementsof all comets and of the annual Award recipients are made via the IAUCirculars, available via subscription from the Smithsonian AstrophysicalObservatory, Mailstop 18, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

The Edgar Wilson Award is international in scope, open to citizens of everycountry. To be eligible for the award, an individual must demonstrate thathe or she is acting in an amateur capacity -- at least for the purpose ofdiscovering the comet -- and that only amateur, privately owned equipmentwas used for the discovery. Eligible discoveries may be made by visual,photographic or electronic means.

Edgar Wilson, a long-time resident of Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky,was active in agricultural and other business interests. Upon his death in1976, a perpetual charitable trust was established that included provisionfor an annual award to honor persons who discover new comets. Mr. Wilsonwas interested in astronomy for many years, and his express purpose forestablishing the trust was to encourage an awareness of the subject. Mr.Wilson's brother, Oscar, died on June 10, 1993, and the Award was to beginfive years after that date.



Brian G. Marsden, bmarsden@cfa.harvard.edu, (617) 495-7244
Daniel W. E. Green, dgreen@cfa.harvard.edu, (617) 495-7440

Public Affairs:
Megan Watzke, mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu, (617) 495-7463

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