Moscow : Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin has become the first Russian to receive the prestigious Edgar Wilson Award for his discovery of a new comet using amateur equipment.
"It is the most coveted award for amateurs who search for new objects in the Solar System, because to discover a new comet is a dream for any of them, even for those who deny it," Elenin said Thursday.
Elenin, a scientist from the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mechanics, discovered the comet C/2010 X1 in December, 2010. The Elenin Comet gained popularity among adepts of conspiracy and doomsday theories who prophesised a global catastrophe as the comet approached earth.
However, the comet was hit in August by a coronal mass ejection while approaching the sun and began disintegrating. Its debris passed earth at the closest distance of about 35 million km, and as of mid-October 2011, it was not visible even using large ground-based telescopes.
Established in 1998 in memory of American businessman Edgar Wilson, the award is given to amateurs (or to professional astronomers acting in an amateur capacity) who, in a given year find one or more new comets using amateur, privately owned equipment. The funds available for the award amount to approximately