About Citizen Sky
About Citizen Sky
Citizen Sky is a citizen science project providing you with a chance to do real scientific research. We are seeking to understand a star that has been a mystery to scientists for many years. This star is epsilon Aurigae, a very interesting, very bright star located in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. This star is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye even in the most light-polluted cities, and it is visible every fall, winter, and spring.
Epsilon Aurigae is a variable star—this means it changes in brightness over time. Collecting data on these changes can help us understand the star. There are many types of variables - epsilon Aurigae is an eclipsing variable. (We have a whole page dedicated to more information about epsilon Aurigae, the "star" of our project). The change in brightness that this star undergoes is called an eclipse (a process of fading and coming back to its usual brightness.) This process takes over 600 days. One of the things that makes epsilon Aurigae so interesting is that it only has an eclipse once every 27.1 years.
Some things about the way that this star fades and then regains it brightness are still not fully understood by astronomers after over 175 years of study. The next eclipse of eps Aur is predicted to begin in August 2009. We need you to help us collect data so that we can better understand this mysterious star. Because the star is very bright, it can be observed by anyone regardless of background, training, or equipment: with just good pair of eyes and a finder chart (which we will give you,) you can monitor this eclipse.
Citizen Sky welcomes everyone to be a citizen scientist. We will guide you through the process of how to observe epsilon Aurigae, how to send us your observations, and then how to see your results, analyze them, and even publish them in a scientific journal!! No previous experience is required. We hope that this project will involve thousands of people all over the world in real, active scientific research.
This site serves as “home base” for participants. We launched in June, 2009, and we will continue to roll out new features throughout the summer and fall. The final site will include blogs, discussion forums, places to submit and analyze data, training materials, and much more.
A 3-day workshop, focused on observing and education/public outreach will be held at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago on August 4-7, 2009. There will be a second workshop focusing on data analysis and scientific paper writing at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco during the spring of 2010. Prior to each of these workshops we’ll have an application form posted in the Workshops section of this site. After each workshop video of all of the workshop presentations will be posted here as well, so even if you can’t attend you can benefit from these talks.
Observation and Analysis
Epsilon Aurigae is an ideal target for those interested in learning how to observe variable stars. By following the Ten Star Tutorial available on our website, you can learn how to make and report an observation using just your eyes. Information on making observations of epsilon Aurigae with a digital camera will be available soon. The AAVSO is developing data analysis software, which will come with tutorials, to help train participants in how to analyze data in astronomy. A special edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the AAVSO will be dedicated to papers written by Citizen Sky project participants.
Education and Public Outreach
The fact that epsilon Aurigae can be seen even from large cities provides a rare opportunity to engage the general public in citizen science. Participants are needed to help write newsletter and newspaper articles, prepare talks and slide shows, develop artwork, give talks, and participate in other forms of community outreach. Teams of interested participants with complementary skill sets are being assembled right now, and will continue to be assembled throughout the project.
Video Introduction to the Citizen Sky Project
By Rebecca Turner, the Citizen Sky Project Manager— outtakes included!
An overview of Citizen Sky was presented in an episode of the 365 Days of Astronomy Daily Podcast of the IYA.