We would like to congratulate one of the very first CS teams to form on a job well done!!
Most of the Citizen Sky teams will form during year 2 of the project and will have research/analysis related goals, but we did have a number of teams form in the first year of the project with non-research goals. One of these, the 20/20 Vision team, formed very early in the project with the goal of introducing its members to the "ins and outs" of visual variable star observing. The team leader, Chris Stephan, did a wonderful job of mentoring dozens of new observers. Through close communication he coached members on selecting equipment, making observations, even doing outreach! The team has decided to shut down now that they have reached their goal of learning the basics. Congratulations on a job well done and a goal successfully met!!Read more
this updated blog deals mainly with invited talks at the Seattle meeting in Jan. 2011, at the American Astronomical Society and commenting on the remaining weeks of eclipse. First, we report on a recent cyber-conversation between Edward Guinan (Prof. Astronomy, Villanova University) and Bradley Schaefer (Prof. Astronomy, Louisiana State University). Both have studied ancient star catalogs for years as part of their research into the lives of stars. Ed Guinan, in a 1990 conference paper reported the following records for visual estimates of epsilon Aurigae over time:
Era Visual mag. SourcesRead more
About two months ago I contacted Eric Jensen at Swarthmore College, the home of the Sproul Observatory with a simple question and shortly thereafter I ended up with three folders containing a slice of astronomical history.
Before we get to the good parts, I should give a little background. Back in November 2010 I wrote a blog post that discussed one of the fundamental problems with studying epsilon Auriage, the distance estimates are all over the map. The most modern distance estimate is from Hipparcos. It puts the F-star at 625 +/- 581 pc. With such a large uncertainty, coming up with any absolute scale for the system is a futile act. There are, however, other distance estimates that have much lower uncertainties.
The late Dr. Van de Kamp provides one of these estimates from a series of astrometric observations of eps Aur using the Sproul Observatory's 24” (61cm) refractor. The data were taken on photographic plates starting in 1938 and ending in the mid 1970's and cover about 1.3 orbits of the system. Among the astrometric solution, Van de Kamp's paper also featured an apparent orbit for eps Aur on the sky (see the small inset in the center of the image below)
After working out a preliminary orbital solution for the system from interferometric observations, one thing became clear, the inclinations didn't agree:
About two months ago I set out to figure out why the two sets of observations were so dissimilar. I contacted Eric Jensen at Swarthmore College (the home of Sproul) to ask if he had any information that might help me in my quest. He dug around in the basement of Sproul in which there is a whole drawer of plates labeled “eps Aur”
along with stacks of printouts. I met up with him at the Seattle AAS meeting and he provided me with three folders that amount to a historical goldmine: three folders of notes, printouts, and charts used in the publication of Van de Kamp's paper.
Aside from raw values from the plate measuring machine, there are two items that top the cake:
A Print from a photographic plate taken in 1938 showing eps Aur (marked with the greek symbol pi) (click to enlarge).
Van de Kamp's hand-drawn orbital solution (click to enlarge). Note, North is Down, East is to the Right
So, what do I hope to gleen from this information? I noticed some of his reference stars were moving in different directions than were assumed when the orbital solution was calculated (interestingly enough the erroneous motion is mostly in declination which could explain why the inclination was so low). Furthermore Van de Kamp used a method of dependencies to solve for the position of stars on the plates. With the help of local astrometrist, Paul Hemenway, I hope to digitize all of the raw data and compute a new orbital solution. With any luck, this will be congruent with the interferometric observations, but there is still a chance that the resulting solution may not. Only by doing the experiment can we find out. Read more
Check out this article in yesterday's issue of the Los Angeles Times featuring epsilon Aurigae and our very own Brian Kloppenborg!!
The article even mentions the song written by CS worksop participant Bob Miller and refers to the eps Aur illustrations that exists as "artwork that would make Spock proud". You can find the song, We are the Stars, and the illustrations made by CS participants on our Media Room Page.Read more
You might want to make the effort to get outside and estimate the visual brightness of epsilon Aurigae now, as it appears to be close to a minimum, about 3.75. This is possibly the faintest it will be this year and for years to come, if the end of eclipse begins in mid/late March as forecast. This assumes that the recent ~67 day in eclipse light variation behavior persists. In that event, we should see return to a local maximum, perhaps V ~ 3.65 in mid/late Feb, followed by a decline - until third contact.
Greetings from day 2 of the AAS meeting in Seattle, WA.
Today was the big day in terms of eps Aur activity. There was a dedicated poster session as well as a special session with talks dedicated to the system.
You can view information about the talks here on the AAS website and the poster abstracts here. We also recorded the talks and will post them to CSky once we increase the audio and get a copy of the presentations so you can follow along.
A few highlights from the talks / posters:Read more
Greetings from the 2011 AAS Meeting being held in Seattle, WA.
Today Rebecca and I presented two posters on behalf of the Citizen Sky project. Rebecca's poster was focused on the project as a whole, whereas my poster discussed the work the DSLR Documentation and Reduction Team has created for the CS website.
I have posted a copy of the DSLR poster to my portfolio page:
https://portfolio.du.edu/pc/port.detail?id=176986 There were several people who were interested in using DSLR as photometers and thanks to conversation I think the team has some more work to do which will make a very cool, publishable paper.Read more
We will be hosting a Citizen Sky online chat this Tuesday at 4pm eastern (+5UT). Dr. Bob, Brian, Rebecca, Aaron and other Citizen Sky and AAVSO staff will be on hand. Topics will include updates on epsilon Aurigae, the upcoming AAS meeting, and ideas for research teams. However, it will be a free chat so any Citizen Sky/VSO topic is welcomed. Hope to see you there!
Note: The chat transcript can now be downloaded from below.
Login here with a web browser:
(Note: The next chat will be scheduled for the first week in February...)Read more