Greetings from the University of Denver's Meyer-Womble observatory perched atop Mt. Evans, CO. As Dr. Bob mentioned in his previous blog post, we're preparing the observatory for yet another summer season, this time focusing on daytime observing of epsilon Aurigae.
If you are not familure with our observatory, it is located at the 14,128 ft (4,306 meters) level, just past the end of the highest paved highway in the United States, the Mt. Evans highway. This road winds around peaks, skirts along 1,000 - 2,000 ft. drop offs, and is often impassable during the winter months. The observatory is so remote that the closest power pole is nearly 10 miles away as the crow flies, therefore we have a solar power system that generates 1.5 kW of electricity under ideal conditions. Read more
Our special guest was Grant Foster, a long-time variable star data researcher and one of the best around at describing statistics to a layperson. He is recent author of the book Analyzing Light Curves: A Practical Guide. Newbies are encouraged to ask any question, don't be shy! We recommend a quick scan of our new 5-Star Analysis Tutorial before joining the chat. Advanced folk can also attend and ask more advanced questions too, but try to save them for the later half of the talk.
This weekend marks both the 66th anniversary of D-Day, and the annual closest approach of the Sun to epsilon Aurigae - a scant 28 degree separation. If you've been attempting observations from anywhere in the northern hemisphere, you've seen how low the star is after sunset and how bright the lingering twilight has remained.
A fine screenshot shared by Thierry Garrel is appended, showing the cumulative effect over the past days, of the increasing twilight (scattering solar spectrum photons) on attempts to acquire spectrum of epsilon Aurigae (in this case, near the H-alpha line). Despite this, he and Robin Leadbeater appears to be able to extract consistent data (see image two). My thanks to these stalwart observers for sharing their findings.Read more
Given that few ancient Greek or Roman astronomers are around today to help us with correct pronunciation, I'm happy to report a little gem has surface, published in 1942 by Adler Planetarium, that might help settle matters. The pamphlet is called Report of a committee of the American Astronomical Society on Preferred Spellings and Pronunciations - see attached. Therein, the Latin genitive (possessive) for constellation Auriga = Aurigae and is marked "o - ri - jee" - as in the concatenation of ORIon and GEE, O-RI-GEE. However, unless you meet an ancient Greek or Roman, we'll probably know to what you refer, no matter your preferred pronunciation.
The second Citizen Sky Workshop will be held Friday-Sunday, September 3-5, 2010 at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We will kick-off the 3-day workshop with an opening reception and tour on the evening of September 2. The focus of this workshop will be data analysis and scientific paper writing. We will have sessions updating us on the science of epsilon Aurigae, how to use VStar for basic data analysis, how to write papers for peer review, how to choose good research questions, doing literature reviews and much more. We also will have a free showing of the new Citizen Sky planetarium trailer on the California Academy of Science's brand-new planetarium dome.
During the past week, careful observers have been struggling with the low horizon angle presented by epsilon Aurigae and its friends, due to approaching solar conjunction in early June. Despite this, credible reports are being received that epsilon Aurigae may be as much as 0.1 mag brighter than it was during early May. If you have a clear NW horizon and patience, try finding The Kids below Capella after sunset, and see if you can provide a brightness estimate during these challenging weeks of late spring.Read more
If you've tried to observe epsilon Aurigae lately, it is quickly sinking into the northwest at dusk, along with Orion and other winter constellations. The star is at solar conjunction during early June, making observations more challenging over the coming several months. To stretch the game analogy, it's essentially half-time - in terms off the eclipse schedule. Naturally, this is just when the fabled mid-eclipse brightening is forecast to happen, suggestive of a central clearing in the midst of the dark disk. Given the developments of the past months and the coming half-time show, it seems timely to review what's been learned, and outline some of the outstanding questions that further observations can help address.
When VStar was published, we also published a new 5-Star Analysis Tutorial. This PDF file is meant for those completely new to variable star data analysis. If you have any interest at all in analysis, take a look at this tutorial first to see if anything strikes your fancy. Read on for more...Read more
A lot of activity has been happening behind the scenes lately with the CS staff so we have, for the most part, been hiding in the shadows. While I'm waiting for my collaborator on a separate project to call me, I thought I would take a few moments (which, in retrospect, turned out to be several few moments as you can see by the length of this post) to tell you about what is going on.