View Single Post
Old 19-04-2010, 11:04 AM
Registered User

PeterM is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,973
My Discovery? Where Do I Start?

Hi all,

This is long, lots of links, hope it is useful.

Many of us began our amateur astronomical journey from some inspiration, perhaps watching a programme on TV (like me), attending a club meeting, attending a star party, from this site or maybe just having that feeling of wanting to know more about “what’s out there”. Now, maybe more than ever, YOU have the opportunity to help find what’s out there, and be credited with its discovery!

With such good equipment available to amateurs these days many here are now taking wonderful images of the night sky, and it is possible that discoveries can and will be made even when not as part of a structured search. Unknown asteroids present very good examples. Get in the habit of checking your new images against previous ones or DSS reference images (see further down). I know someone who discovered 2 unknown asteroids in images he took while living in Australia for a few months.

In light of the possibilities and to ensure nobody here misses out on what could be an absolute corker of a discovery (a Supernova in the Milky Way or LMC/SMC, a Great Comet, an Asteroid that you may get privilege to name, who knows) has led me to think we now need a My Discovery? – Where Do I Start? sticky under our Astro Science area?

Amateurs are making big discoveries, even in recent years - Anthony Wesley (Canberra) “Bird” - his “Birdstrike” on Jupiter. (Jay McNeil -USA) - McNeil’s object. Andrew Murrell (NSW) - Murrell 1. Terry Lovejoy (QLD), “Comet Guy” - 2 comets. Stu Parker (NZ) “Park123” - 7 Supernova.

You can also get involved at the cutting edge of astronomy – extra planet discoveries, read the thread started by Binofield (NZ)

Recently (2008) a 14 year old girl in the USA discovered a supernova that has challenged some of the current ideas on supernova - much less brighter than it should have been, a failed supernova?.

There is just nowhere else that I am aware of that an amateur can contribute to science in such a hands on way - this is absolutely mind blowing stuff! But you may need some help along the way.

There are lots of people on Ice In Space who are more than well enough equipped and capable of being of assistance and the thread below lists many of them, it is a good starting point. I encourage you to see who has “been there done that”.
Some handy ones to know include - Comets - “Comet Guy”, Asteroids - “AstroJunk” . Supernova - “PeterM” , "Park123” , “Greg Bock”

BUT there are set procedures to report a discovery that must be followed. While it may seem handy to post a potential discovery on Ice In Space seeking assistance, this alone does not guarantee your discovery will be accepted as your discovery and as you now have announced an unconfirmed possible discovery to a wider audience, could be a problem. There is much to be done before announcing a possible discovery. I am not saying don't post it here on IIS, but understand the implications and do some of the basic groundwork first that will give others enough information to help follow up, as you may need to get things moving quickly.
If someone else somewhere in the world reports a discovery in the proper manner and you haven’t then it is probable “your” discovery may only add weight in that it confirms their discovery as reported, (even if you found it before them). Sure, you may get some Kudos, maybe a pre-discovery image or if lucky an independent discovery, but maybe not what you fully deserved. What a bugger that would be – we (BOSS team) have been there done that by the way.

OK I am not the expert on this by any means but want to start the ball rolling. I encourage informed, constructive input on things I will have missed or not got right, so please bear with me.

Read this FIRST (general to all potential discoveries)

How to report a discovery – have a good read of these and the links associated. - what to report - how to report a discovery.
Specifically read and understand this - especially “what are some common mistakes”

The Minor Planet Centre - much information on what to do and what NOT to do.

50 Most recent CBETs (Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams - the most recent releases of discoveries, advices etc.) These have to be subscribed to in order read them but they do give a small amount of recent information that can be useful. I think ASNSW members can have access to the CBETs contents as part of the membership fees? But please double check this.

General Catalogue of Variable Stars (GCVS) – this allows searching of fields for known Variable Stars

Supernova Discoveries – these pages are useful with much up to date information on objects already discovered. - up to date (within a day or less) of recent SN discoveries - complete list of all SN discoveries going back over 100 years. Not always right up to date, maybe a few days out.

Minor Planet Checkers - Use these to input the co-ordinates, catalogue number etc of an area of sky you wish to search for known minor planets.

Digitised Sky Survey – Download images of objects you are interested in comparing/checking (i.e. Galaxies) or a specific RA & Dec you are checking, to use as a reference i.e. “object not visible on the Red Digitised Sky Survey “

Some bits of general advice,

Don’t send anything to the Minor Planet Centre, CBAT, IAU etc until you have checked your facts and got confirmation and don’t send them images - they don’t want them unless requested, always send any email to them as PLAIN TEXT ONLY. Absolutely seek assistance from other IIS members.

If at all possible try not just to use "it’s left of / right of " to describe an objects position on your image, North, South etc are better, or perhaps as some have done a blinked image is more helpful in identifying what you are referring to. Drawing circles may help identify the object in question but still leaves the work of getting a position to someone else, not a big issue so long as they have further information. If you can measure the position (RA & Dec – specify the epoch) as best as you can of your suspect object - even a very close guestimate at this early stage is better than nothing, include this when asking others for assistance. But this should not deter you either, if you need help ask.
A magnitude and how you arrived at it helps. The time of the observation as accurate as possible also helps. Your location.

When sending or posting images on IIS seeking assistance in the confirmation process, a FITS image (if possible) with telescope, camera details, image scale is very useful. A contact number always helps (pm this).

Understanding decimal time is handy as many discoveries are reported and announced this way.
At 8pm tonite it would be reported as 2010 04 19.416 or 2010 Apr 19.416
The .416 is arrived at by -
8pm, local time = 10hrs UT, Simply divided 10hrs UT by 24 = .416

DO GET EXCITED that you may have discovered something, it is an adrenalin rush. DON'T BE DISAPPOINTED if it turns out to be nothing or a known object, as you have made your start and gained valuable knowledge.

Ok it’s a start; no doubt more will be added. Please if I have missed anything or stuffed anything up then let’s get it noted for others to use.

There is a lot in here I know, it is actually much easier than it looks and sounds to get your discovery reported but there are no prisoners taken and if you don’t report your discovery properly it is possible it might not even be read or followed up.

Good luck!


Last edited by PeterM; 20-04-2010 at 04:01 PM. Reason: clarity
Reply With Quote