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choochoo_baloo

Variable star measurements for scientific research - a realistic proposition?

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After a long-ish break from backgarden astronomy I've recently been developing my deep sky photographic skills, and this led me to wonder whether I (like many an amateur) could put this half-decent equipment to performing meaningful measurements (as opposed to just taking pretty pictures - stunning as they are!)

The American Association of Variable Star Obsevres site caugh my interest.

  • Do any other SGL members had dealings with them?
  • Can anyone make recommendations for progressing into this exciting area of professional-amateur overlap?

And advice is gratefully received.

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I have an AAVSO ID but have not yet submitted and readings but I do try measuring variables and keep some notes as it is interesting to do.

Amateurs can check stars that professionals wouldn't and sometimes will spot unusual things and flag them for the pros to investigate which can make a difference if an event is transitory.

Also the accumulation of lots of measurements from amateurs  adds up to useful data.

A couple of interesting things I've learned is that, oddly, concentrating on magnitudes led to me noticing colours in stars much more than I did before, and my ST120 is my favourite choice for the job due to its ability to cover wider fields which is often handy for this task.

 

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Hi, Matthew. I think Paz has hit the nail on the head with

26 minutes ago, Paz said:

the accumulation of lots of measurements from amateurs  adds up to useful data.

Dodgy readings get filtered out and you can compare your measurements with the observations of others. Learning on the job!

This (for £5-6 second hand) is a great introduction to the actual practice of taking measurements.

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On 28/07/2018 at 04:09, choochoo_baloo said:

After a long-ish break from backgarden astronomy I've recently been developing my deep sky photographic skills, and this led me to wonder whether I (like many an amateur) could put this half-decent equipment to performing meaningful measurements (as opposed to just taking pretty pictures - stunning as they are!)

The American Association of Variable Star Obsevres site caugh my interest.

  • Do any other SGL members had dealings with them?
  • Can anyone make recommendations for progressing into this exciting area of professional-amateur overlap?

And advice is gratefully received.

Hi, short response since I am writing on a smartphone:

Observing and estimating the magnitude of variable stars is a scientifically useful activity, also one that is fun and entertaining.

You do not need to be a member of AAVSO to submit your observations, but you do need an observing code, which you can get from their webpage if you create a login first.

You will need to carefully read the observing manual first, and then go through a period of 'calibration'.

There are lots of useful resources out there, books, web pages, etc. Go on a read. Visual observations are one way, CCD and photometer are others. The subject is vast. There is lots of space for everyone, and a lot to do. Welcome!

For reference, you might want to visit AAVSO website, also BAA.

Modestly, you could also peek at the following post in my astroblog:

https://epistulaeastronomicae.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/towards-a-variable-star-observing-program-1-general-considerations/

 

Good luck and welcome!

 

Edited by DHEB
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On 28/07/2018 at 08:56, Demonperformer said:

Hi, Matthew. I think Paz has hit the nail on the head with

Dodgy readings get filtered out and you can compare your measurements with the observations of others. Learning on the job!

This (for £5-6 second hand) is a great introduction to the actual practice of taking measurements.

+1 for this recommendation. Great begginer book!

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And/Or you could join the British Astronomical Association Variable Star Section. The BAA and AAVSO databases are linked and there is very strong links between the two organisations. I think the BAA VSS is the oldest variable star organisation, started in 1890.

There is much information for the beginner on the web site.

Edited by melsmore
Added beginner information
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Matthew,

good to hear about your interest in variable stars offer the amateur astronomer equipped with a small telescope and CCD camera great opportunities for doing some real science with their equipment. Essentially, if you are already able to produce reasonable images with your camera, you can turn it to variable stars with good effect.

I am a member of both the AAVSO and the BAA Variable Star Section, whose committee I am on. I have developed a CCD Target List which contains a range of projects, including collecting data on eclipsing binaries and cataclysmic variables. In some projects, it simply involves taking a few images to check whether a cataclysmic variable is in outburst or not (a word of warning here: catching a rare outburst is both exciting and addictive, so you might get hooked!) and if it is, to measure the brightness. In other cases, it involves taking a succession of images of the same target, often for a few hours. Photometry from the resulting time-series is then extracted, with simple-to-use software, to yield a light curve of the object.

@Dave Smith on here is doing some excellent CCD work, Have a look at this, for example:

 

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Thanks chaps.

Have ordered that introductory book, and once I've done some research I will come back to this thread with further questions.

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22 hours ago, Stub Mandrel said:

Our club is participating in a programme called HOYS-CAPS - Hunting Outbursting Young Stars with the Centre of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences.

http://astro.kent.ac.uk/~df/hoyscaps/index.html

Thanks Neil, that looks like an ideal project to work towards.

Where exactly can I read up about standardised photometric filters - obviously using an approved photometric filter is critical - I want to be sure to buy a compatible filter. Excerpt taken from the HOYS-CAPS intruction document:

The filter names are in line with existing BAA standards, and the list below is
roughly sorted by wavelength.

N  - White light with Sodium blocking filter
U  - Johnson U
SU - Sloan U
B  - Johnson B
TB,tb - Blue Filter (tricolour)
V  - Johnson V
CV - Clear (unfiltered) V-band comp star mag (more common than CR)
TG,tg - Green Filter (tricolour)
SG - Sloan G
R  - Cousins R
SR - Sloan R
CR - Clear (unfiltered) R-band comp star mag

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They want straight DSLR images for some targets, also a DSLR will give you TB, TG and TR. If you don't debayer you can use DSS to generate these two channels.

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