How to Report a Discovery
- Have you found something and is it new?
- What to include when reporting a new object
- Where to report your object
- Information for other discoveries
This Theme is designed to guide you through the process of reporting a discovery. It includes a guide to the most common objects that you may have observed. Please read the sections relevant to your object as well as the general sections before reporting your object. If your finding is not an object observed in the sky (for example a meteorite or asterism) please proceed to section 4. You may also want to consult this Astronomy Picture of the Day.
1. Have you found something and is it new?
Please check the following to verify that you have made a discovery:
- Is it an image artifact? Can you confirm that what you have seen is real and not an instrumental artifact? "Ghost images" caused by nearby bright objects can be deceptive. Have you confirmed your observation on a second night and obtained multiple CCD or photographic exposures?
- What type of object is it?
- Motion: How much does the object move?
- Definitely detectable movement — it could be a comet or minor planet.
- Some movement —it could be a comet or minor planet.
- No detectable movement — it could be a supernova or a nova.
- Brightness: If the object's brightness fluctuates, but it is neither a nova nor a supernova it could be:
- An outburst of an unusual variable star (for example, a fading R CrB-type star, or an outburst from a cataclysmic variable for the first time in more than two years).
- A normal variable or new variable star.
- Check the location. Have you checked whether there is an existing object at the location? Put the coordinates into a good sky atlas, for instance:
- Check lists: Please consult a list of known objects, for instance:
- Nebulae and galaxies: the Sesame name resolver is a good service for an overview of objects in the vicinity.
- Comets and minor planets/asteroids:
- Novae or variable stars:
If you still think that you have found a new object, please proceed to Section 2 to for information on what to report.
2. What to include when reporting a new object
General reporting information should include:
- An accurate position and time (especially for comets and minor planets).
- A reasonable description of the object including (where possible) its magnitude.
- A precise position for the suspect.
- Your full name and contact details.
- Information on your observing location, the instrument used to detect the object and the sources you have checked to rule out alternative explanations.
- Information on how you have determined that the object is new.
- For more detail on what to report for a specific object please go to:
When you have collected this information proceed to Section 3 for information on where to report your object.
3. Where to report your object
4. Information for other discoveries
- Meteorites and fireballs
- There is a lot of information available on the internet to help you identify whether you have found a meteorite:
- Asterisms are patterns or shapes of stars that are not related to the known constellations, but nonetheless are widely recognised by laypeople or in the amateur astronomy community. Examples of asterisms include the seven bright stars in Ursa Major known as “The Plough” in Europe or “The Big Dipper” in America, as well as the “Summer Triangle”, a large triangle, seen in the summer night sky in the northern hemisphere and composed of the bright stars Altair, Deneb and Vega.
- They are not subject to official approval and no updates are foreseen of the 88 constellations. Read more here.
- Galaxies or nebulae
- The Universe is a large place. It is notoriously difficult to keep track of the millions and billions of objects, but the Sesame name resolver is a good place to start. A galaxy will only be reclassified if your research is published in a peer-review scientific journal, following a discussion by the astronomy community about updating their databases.
The IAU cannot accept scientific papers. Instead, we recommend that you submit your paper to a scientific publisher, such as Nature, Science, Astronomy & Astrophysics, IOP Science and AAS. (Please note that this list is not exhaustive.)