Robert Evans (astronomer)

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Robert Owen Evans, OAM (20 February 1937 - 8 November 2022) was a minister of the Uniting Church in Hazelbrook, New South Wales and an amateur astronomer who holds the record for visual discoveries of supernovae (42).[1][2][3]


Evans was born on 20 February 1937[4] in Sydney, Australia. He graduated from the University of Sydney, majoring in philosophy and modern history. Coming from a religious family, Evans trained to become a Methodist minister and was ordained by the New South Wales Conference in 1967. He served as a circuit minister until his retirement in 1998. He wrote a number of books on the history of evangelism.[5]

Supernova search[edit]

Evans took up supernova hunting around 1955, but his first adequate instrument, a 10-inch (25 cm) Newtonian telescope was assembled only about 1968. He made his first official supernova discovery in 1981 and found nine more before using larger telescopes. While living in Coonabarabran, New South Wales he used his own 16 inch (40 cm) telescope. From early 1995 to mid-1997 he also had limited access to the Siding Spring 40-inch (1.0 m) Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory (he was allocated about 110 nights, half of which were suitable for observing), resulting in about 10,000 galaxy observations, another three visual supernovae discoveries and an additional four supernovae spotted on photographs made at the observatory.[6]

By 2001, he had made 33 visual discoveries and by the end of 2005, despite the increasing competition from automated telescopes, the total number had already increased to 40 visual supernova discoveries plus one comet. In 2005, Evans relied almost exclusively on his 31 cm Dobsonian. He reported 6,814 galaxy observations in a period of 107 hours and 30 minutes, spread out over 77 nights. During that time, he found four supernovae; three had already been discovered by others, the fourth was SN 2005df, which was Evans' third supernova discovery in NGC 1559 (after SN 1984J and SN 1986L) and his 40th visual discovery.

In an interview, Evans reported that he was able "to observe 50 galaxies an hour when they were scattered around the sky, and 120 galaxies an hour in Virgo".[7] Only in the 1990s did automated telescopes come into use which offered a comparable speed – like the Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope. Evans also features prominently in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything which quotes him as saying "There's something satisfying, I think, about the idea of light travelling for millions of years through space and just at the right moment as it reaches Earth someone looks at the right bit of sky and sees it. It just seems right that an event of that magnitude should be witnessed."[8] Supernova 1983N, spotted by Evans in 1983 in the galaxy M83 long before it reached its peak, turned out to be the first discovery of a new type of supernova, later named Type 1b.[9]

In 2005, Evans resigned from being the chairman of the AAVSO Supernovae Search Committee after serving in that position for two decades.

Evans lived in Hazelbrook, Australia where he wrote books. Meanwhile, he continued his supernova hunting using a 12-inch (31 cm) reflecting telescope from his back porch. The bulky 16-inch (410 mm) telescope fell into disuse since the place in Hazelbrook did not accommodate a permanent installation in the back yard.

Research in evangelical revivals[edit]

Robert Evans wrote and published books on the history of evangelism in the 19th and 20th centuries under his imprint Research in Evangelical Revivals.


List of supernova discoveries[edit]




  • SN 1988ai in ESO 293g34. (found in 2002.)
  • SN 1996A. anonymous galaxy. Type II.
  • SN 1996O. MCG +03- 41- 115. Type Ia.
  • SN 1996ad. anonymous galaxy.
  • SN 1996as. anonymous galaxy. Type II

Books by Robert Evans[edit]

  • Evans, Robert (1993). An Evangelical World-View Philosophy
  • Evans, Robert (Compiled and edited 1996, 2007). An Outline History of Evangelical Revivals in the Pacific Islands and in Papua New Guinea
  • Evans, Robert & McKenzie, Roy (1999). Evangelical Revivals in New Zealand
  • Evans, Robert (2000, 2007). Early Evangelical Revivals in Australia (2nd Ed.)
  • Evans, Robert (2005). Evangelism and Revivals in Australia, 1880 to 1914 (First volume)
  • Evans, Robert (2005). Fire From Heaven: A Description and Analysis of the Revivals of the 'Burned-Over District' of Upstate New York, 1800-1840, and Spiritual Deceptions
  • Evans, Robert (2007). Emilia Baeyertz - Evangelist: Her Career in Australia and Great Britain
  • Evans, Robert (2007). Thomas Cook - British Evangelist in Australia and New Zealand in 1894 and 1895
  • Evans, Robert (2010). Evangelisation Society of Australasia 1883 to 1918
  • Evans, Robert (2011). Evangelisation Society of Australasia 1919 to 1945
  • Evans, Robert & McKenzie, Roy (2012). Duncan Wright - Evangelist in New Zealand
  • Evans, Robert (2014). Sister Francis as an Evangelist
  • Evans, Robert (2014). The Later Ministry of Dr. J. Edwin Orr
  • Evans, Robert (2014). The Spiritual Impact of the Religious Tract Society
  • Evans, Robert (2014). The Truth about Jedediah Burchard?
  • Evans, Robert (2015). The American Evangelical Philosophy of Civilization 1735 to 1905


  1. ^ "Wesley Mission Rise and Shine Archives May 2010". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b Smith, Bridie. "Sky the limit on galaxy quest". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  3. ^ Foye, Jonathan (24 November 2022). "Vale, Bob Evans". Insights Magazine. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  4. ^ "Robert Owen "Bob" Evans Death Notice". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 November 2022. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  5. ^ Who is Rev. Robert Evans? Archived 2015-01-25 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Jeremy Tatum, Notes - Honorary RASC Member Robert Evans, R.A.S. Canada. Journal, vol. 89, n. 2, aprile 1995, pag. 64-65-66
  7. ^ Interview of Robert Evans [1] accessed 7 November 2010
  8. ^ A Short History of Nearly Everything, page 32, First Edition, Doubleday, 2003
  9. ^ Searching for Supernovae: A More Personal Story "Searching for Supernovae: A More Personal Story". Archived from the original on 14 September 2007. Retrieved 15 September 2007. accessed 5 November 2010
  10. ^ Past Amateur Achievement Winners [2] accessed 5 November 2010
  11. ^ "Berenice and Arthur Page Medal". National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  12. ^ "The Nova/Supernova Award". American Association of Variable Star Observers. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  13. ^ a b c "Who is Rev. Robert Evans?". Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  14. ^ "Australian Honours: EVANS, Robert Owen". It's an Honour: Australia Celebrating Australians. Australian Government. 26 January 1988. Archived from the original on 24 September 2016. Retrieved 25 June 2014. Citation reads: 'In recognition of service to science, particularly astronomy.'
  15. ^ "The ASNSW McNiven Medal". Astronomical Society of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 19 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  16. ^ "Supernova Discoveries by Rev. Robert Evans". Research in Evangelical Revivals. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  17. ^ "List of Supernovae". IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Amateur Achievement Award of Astronomical Society of the Pacific (together with Gregg Thompson)
Succeeded by