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The start of a journey...


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Hi everyone,

I thought I'd do a little write-up of my first few nights in the field of variable star observing. I have managed to hunt down eight stars in the constellations of Leo and Leo Minor in three sessions of about 2 hours each. I printed of charts from the AAVSO website, and basically tried star-hopping and looking for subtle patterns in the star charts and fields of view to make sure I was looking in the right places.

The first star I sought out was R Leo, which was in a relatively easy to find because of a distinctive pattern of stars in the field of view (something which is very helpful when you are searching for a single star among thousands, which might not even be visible when you find it). I double and triple checked that I had the right star, and kept looking at the star chart to find the magnitudes of the comparison stars. I finally took a guess at its brightness, and wrote it down on a piece of paper along with the time taken from my digital camera. It was quite a thrill to be able to identify and gather data on one of the millions of stars available to us in the sky - doing valuable science from your backyard is an amazing feeling, which really adds to my experience of astronomy.

I moved on to the more challenging star X Leo, and did the same - getting the same buzz by writing down a simple number which was my own little piece of scientific data gathered using my own telescope and my own observational techniques. It was time to pack up then, but the next morning, I submitted my two pieces of data to the AAVSO database, and then plotted a light curve of the stars, and sure enough, my own little data point was there, with my name at the bottom of the chart.

Over the next two nights I gathered 6 more readings from some different stars, and submitted them again. Although it is early days, I am really loving variable star observing - it's great to be able to use your own time and equipment to contribute to science archives which will be used by professional astronomers should they require any data about the stars I once observed. It really adds a new dimension to be able to come away having accomplished something definite after every session, and I can't wait to hunt down some more of my new-found fluctuating friends.

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