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#1 UniversalMaster

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 10:31 AM

Hi!

Since there seem to have been a small revolution in (cmos) camera technology (low read noise, short exposures, lucky imaging) and in how much time people can put into their astrophotos (50+ hours and robotic observatories are not so uncommon), is there anything amateurs can do science wise now, that was not possible, say, 5-10 years ago?
I'm not asking about pretty pictures, but science.....

Best regards
Søren
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#2 rdw4176

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 10:54 AM

Here are a few options, automation help with consistent measurement and increase sensor sensibility to make all this more accessible even in not so optimum sky condition:

1. Meteor - counting

2. Planet - monitoring

3. Sun spot - monitoring

4. Comet - finding

5. Asteroid - finding, position, photometry, NEO

6. Stars - Variable, double, Be, Nova, photometry, spectra, discovery, classification

7. Exoplanet - measure

8. Spectroscopy



#3 jfrech14

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 11:14 AM

The major thing with amateur science has been and always will be the ability to properly calibrate their data. Doing things like above where calibration isn't a huge issue like detection and counting is totally doable. However, anything absolute like lightcurves and such are possibly but are often not calibrated to the level required by scientific databases like AAVSO. Things like sensor linearity and calibration on a standard star are often overlooked and the data is not able to be anything more than relative magnitudes and such. It is still helpful and awesome, but in terms of absolute photometry, spectroscopy and such, it takes more effort and money than most amateurs put in.

For example, for photometry, you're really supposed to use one of the Landolt Standards for calibration. If one isn't in the field of view of your target, then for calibration you have an entire second dataset to process. And if you have a second target that is on the other side of the sky or much later in the night, you're supposed to have another calibration star for that airmass and sky background, etc.

For spectroscopy, you can use just spectrographs, but the resolution for precision spectroscopy isn't there and calibration lines are needed from bright sources - usually not that big of an issue. For better spectral resolution, you typically have a smaller bandpass and the instruments are more expensive. Plus, calibration lamps and such are often a significant cost on top of the spectrometer or spectrograph. 

So, there is plenty amateurs can do, but for the really precise stuff it still takes a bit more money, time and effort than most amateurs can just randomly decide to take on with their equipment. But there is plenty that they can do with just the equipment they have, like the last post mentioned.


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#4 sg6

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 11:19 AM

I suppose the anser is there should be but identifing and locating it is not easy.

At a university where astronomy/astrophysics is a subject the post grads are working for their PhD and I would say cannot "chance" a significant amount of public involvement.

 

They are in the place for 5 years many people do not or cannot commit to 5 years of input. Evil thought how many of us will be on this planet in 5 years and not up among the stars angel2.gif

 

So that leaves the public ones like GalaxyZoo and many do not need a scope. Was somethong not long ago on similar lines where people could recognise objects better - try Gaia, have a look for Gaia alerts and what they are relevant to, that was one I think. However not using a scope but data analysis.

 

Did at some time have a site/link to potential amateur involvement, will try locate.

 

Site was one of the ones like BAA - British Astro Assn - not a university or research establishment. Guess you need to spend time on Google searching and following links/leads.

 

https://www.skyandte...-collaboration/

 

First line explains a post made a week or so back - person wanting tp image moon for impacts.

Think they should or could have explained the reason behind it.

 

https://www.iau.org/...ience-projects/

Google search produces stuff.


Edited by sg6, 04 October 2019 - 11:27 AM.


#5 TOMDEY

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 11:23 AM

Martin Harwit's book ~Cosmic Discovery~ addresses that subject in great detail and entirely broad perspective. There are always areas where amateurs can do truly useful... even envelope-pushing science, particularly astronomy/astrophysics. I too like (only) different things. When I notice that others are jumping on and overloading established bandwagons... I bail out and look for neglected nooks and crannies where others are either uninterested of afraid to tread --- specifically because equipment and recipes can't simply be bought and followed.

 

Root-Bernstein's book ~Discovering~ is even broader, a great expansive read.

 

You can find these books on AbeBooks for just a few dollars, delivered within a few days!

 

https://www.abebooks...overy&kn=&isbn=

 

https://www.abebooks...ering&kn=&isbn=

 

Tom

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#6 Ed Wiley

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Posted 04 October 2019 - 11:46 AM

Hi!

Since there seem to have been a small revolution in (cmos) camera technology (low read noise, short exposures, lucky imaging) and in how much time people can put into their astrophotos (50+ hours and robotic observatories are not so uncommon), is there anything amateurs can do science wise now, that was not possible, say, 5-10 years ago?
I'm not asking about pretty pictures, but science.....

Best regards
Søren

Opportunities abound. (1) AAVSO variable stars and exoplanets, (2) lucky and optical interferometric measures of closer binary stars, and (3) light curves of asteroids; just to mention a few.  All yield variable science data.

 

Ed

 

Resources

https://www.aavso.org/

http://www.jdso.org

http://www.minorplan...vingguides.html


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#7 robin_astro

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Posted 05 October 2019 - 06:25 AM

For spectroscopy, you can use just spectrographs, but the resolution for precision spectroscopy isn't there and calibration lines are needed from bright sources - usually not that big of an issue. For better spectral resolution, you typically have a smaller bandpass and the instruments are more expensive. Plus, calibration lamps and such are often a significant cost on top of the spectrometer or spectrograph. 

So, there is plenty amateurs can do, but for the really precise stuff it still takes a bit more money, time and effort than most amateurs can just randomly decide to take on with their equipment. But there is plenty that they can do with just the equipment they have, like the last post mentioned.

Amateur spectroscopy has progressed beyond all recognition in the past 15 years thanks to affordable camera technology and a range of spectrographs capable of  producing research quality spectra. A quick browse of the ARAS forum for example and searching for some of the contributors names there as authors in the ADS database will reveal that there is a lot of Pro-Am work being done in spectroscopy.

 

http://www.spectro-aras.com/forum/

 

You have to chose projects to match equipment capability of course and it is a challenging area to master but I can measure radial velocities to 1km/s precision in spectra down to a resolution of 0.3A and confirm and classify supernovae to mag 17 at low resolution  with modest equipment costing less than many astrophotography setups (The calibration lamp cost 0.4 Euro !)

 

http://www.threehill...observatory.htm

 

Cheers

Robin


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#8 Ed Wiley

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Posted 05 October 2019 - 11:58 PM

The major thing with amateur science has been and always will be the ability to properly calibrate their data. Doing things like above where calibration isn't a huge issue like detection and counting is totally doable. However, anything absolute like lightcurves and such are possibly but are often not calibrated to the level required by scientific databases like AAVSO. Things like sensor linearity and calibration on a standard star are often overlooked and the data is not able to be anything more than relative magnitudes and such. It is still helpful and awesome, but in terms of absolute photometry, spectroscopy and such, it takes more effort and money than most amateurs put in.

For example, for photometry, you're really supposed to use one of the Landolt Standards for calibration. If one isn't in the field of view of your target, then for calibration you have an entire second dataset to process. And if you have a second target that is on the other side of the sky or much later in the night, you're supposed to have another calibration star for that airmass and sky background, etc.

For spectroscopy, you can use just spectrographs, but the resolution for precision spectroscopy isn't there and calibration lines are needed from bright sources - usually not that big of an issue. For better spectral resolution, you typically have a smaller bandpass and the instruments are more expensive. Plus, calibration lamps and such are often a significant cost on top of the spectrometer or spectrograph. 

So, there is plenty amateurs can do, but for the really precise stuff it still takes a bit more money, time and effort than most amateurs can just randomly decide to take on with their equipment. But there is plenty that they can do with just the equipment they have, like the last post mentioned.

IMO you are way off base. Many of us do very good photometry with modest equipment and without using all-sky photometric techniques using Landolt stars. I do eclipsing binary lights curves with just as good an accuracy of times of minima as the pros with a C11.I know this because I check my results against theirs in O-C analysis. I am not even sure what you mean by "absolute photometry" and I teach AAVSO photometry courses. If you mean all-sky photometry then be aware that we amateurs practice differential photometry and our photometry is certainly accurate enough for the professionals to use. So in photometry there is not such thing as "for photometry, you're really supposed to use one of the Landolt Standards for calibration." If you do all-sky you use Landolt, if you use differential you don't.

 

I'l let Robin take up for spectrography.

 

Ed


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#9 robin_astro

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 06:27 AM

 If you mean all-sky photometry then be aware that we amateurs practice differential photometry and our photometry is certainly accurate enough for the professionals to use. 

I think this is a good example where there has been a significant improvement in the past few years. Differential photometry depends on good multi passband sub standard reference stars in the same field, traceable back to Landolt standards, established using all sky photometry. The AAVSO APASS survey project made it more likely to find a known good reference star in any field.

https://www.aavso.org/apass

 

>"I'l let Robin take up for spectrography."

 

Already have :-)

 

Cheers

Robin


Edited by robin_astro, 06 October 2019 - 06:34 AM.

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#10 jfrech14

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 06:29 AM

You two seem to think I said that I said no, amateurs can’t contribute to science. I said yes, they can and do a great job at it. Please reread my message because I said many of the things are simply above what most average amateurs want to do with just the equipment they have. Differential photometry, which isn’t quite as accurate as all sky but is perfectly acceptable for AAVSO submissions, is great. I never said it isn’t.

And if I’m going be called out for being way off base, Please google it before trying to make it seem I don’t know what I’m talking about to others. Absolute photometry is using calibrated detectors to actually measure the flux of light, which professionals do all the time and is above what most amateurs can do. Using photometers and having carefully calibrated filter passbands to correctly transform your data to that of A photometric standard star in a particular photometric system like UBVRI or UGRIZ. It’s the most accurate form, and isn’t even done in most professional observations, relative photometry is. Then differential photometry is definitely the most practical and I NEVER said it isn’t useful.

Please remember the question is about what amateurs can and can’t do vs 10-15 years ago and I was explaining some of the big differences in how professionals do things vs amateurs and that part hasn’t changed that much. Professionals have always had to be more meticulous with calibrating their data. You two seem to think I said amateurs can’t do anything and you’re way off base with the message I was sending. I also said for the really precise stuff it takes a bit more money, time and effort than “most amateurs” not all amateurs can randomly just use their equipment for. It just seems like you guys saw a post saying amateurs can’t do what pros do and didn’t like what I said.

For spectroscopy, I mentioned instruments that can get you into it relatively cheaply but for more precise spectroscopy the instruments are more expensive... like buying a $2200 alpy with guiding and calibration module or an even more expensive Lhires like he has. Those prices are often more money than someone wants to shell out just to dabble In spectroscopy. I would know because it was more than I was able to shell out on top of my imaging equipment, even though I wanted to do spectroscopy at home. I never said it was professional price range, you guys assumed that. I’ve done amateur and professional photometry in astronomy. I’ve done and do professional and amateur spectroscopy. I am all for both. Amateurs contribute a TON to science and I’ve never said anything that makes it seem like they don’t.

I talked specifically about calibration because CMOS was brought up and linearity of a camera and the importance of having a NABG sensor is a large topic on AAVSO. CMOS cameras can be more of a challenge to properly calibrated because of their architecture. Ed, you even have a call to action about this very thing admitting NABG sensors are optimal for this very reason and NABG sensors these days are hard enough to come by, and more expensive, that classifies them as a specialized cost most amateurs don’t go for. So, I’m sorry my message came across as against amateur science. I firmly believe you took it half glass empty rather than glass half full. Also, I’ll add I’m not an expert in astronomical photometry. I’ve done professional work in it, but it was only for a few years a while ago. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but In my opinion your interpretation of my message was. But if it came across as putting amateurs down, hopefully now it’s clear it wasn’t my intention in the slightest. 


Edited by jfrech14, 06 October 2019 - 07:09 AM.


#11 robin_astro

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 07:11 AM

For spectroscopy, I mentioned instruments that can get you into it relatively cheaply but for more precise spectroscopy the instruments are more expensive... like buying a $2200 alpy with guiding and calibration module or an even more expensive Lhires like he has. Those prices are often more money than someone wants to shell out just to dabble In spectroscopy.

Yes like any other pastime, you can spend a small fortune but the advantage amateurs have is flexibility and time.  My setup including telescope, cameras, three spectrographs (5 including the Star Analysers) has been built up over the years and cost me around $5k, less than many astrophotographers might spend on the OTA alone. How you say?  By getting involved in the community and seeking out opportunities.  

 

I started out doing spectroscopy 15 years ago with $20 school science grating following an idea by French amateur Christian Buil. From that I developed the idea of the Star Analyser which has allowed anyone interested to dabble in spectroscopy for around the cost of a filter. 

 

I then got involved in a group who were developing a high resolution spectrograph specifically for a Pro-Am project (The LHIRES III) I bought this as a kit for ~$1k. (If you want to take a similar route today look up the amateur lowspec and UVEX spectrograph projects for example which use another technique revolutionising instrument building,3D printing). My telescope mount and cameras are second hand, bought almost new from people upgrading or moving on from astronomy.  

 

The ALPY was bought at  a discount in turn for translating the manuals into English and doing some beta testing. The second core module used for supernova spectroscopy was supported by a grant from the BAA for projects contributing to science.  The ALPY calibration module is a nice to have. (The calibration lamp I mentioned for 0.4 Euro is the same as used in the ALPY and was discovered by an Swiss amateur)

 

BTW the idea that you can only  do precision photometry/spectroscopy  with a NABG camera is a long disproved myth. 

 

Cheers

Robin


Edited by robin_astro, 06 October 2019 - 07:56 AM.


#12 jfrech14

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 07:38 AM

I feel like my messages just aren’t hitting properly, so I am just going to bow out. I never said you can only do it with a NABG sensor. I very specifically said optimal, which was a quote from one of Ed’s post on AAVSO.

I also said the precision spectroscopy stuff is more expensive than most people are willing to just jump into. Star analyzers are awesome, but aren’t what I would call precision instruments. Those are the spectrographs I was referring to as great for just dabbling in spectroscopy. Building up over time is great. Starting out small and slow is great. But the question specifically mentioned about amateurs doing science. You can do science with a star analyzer, but it’s most likely not going to be science you can contribute to the public much. It’s mostly going to be just a fun way to get yourself into spectroscopy.

My point was that on top of having an astrophotography setup, buying a precision spectrograph to just decide to go into spectroscopy is more than most amateurs are willing to pay. I can speak on that because I had an $8k imaging setup and spending $2-3k on a spectroscopy setup to go on the telescope wasn’t a price I could justify because I would have to decide between my imaging camera or the spectroscopy setup and then decide if I wanted to do science that night or image. I just never got that many clear nights in the first place. I actually considered low spec because I happened to already have a 3D printer, but not anymore. Plus, with printer and all the optics and such, it’s still more expensive and certainly more work than someone new would want to put in unless they’re dedicated to doing it, which is awesome.

So, I apologize if my messages came across the wrong way, but doesn’t seem like they were thoroughly read, because I tried to make it clear that I love amateur science and that it simply takes more money and effort than “most” amateurs will throw towards science on top of normal imaging. The question was about amateurs doing science vs professionals and my messages were aimed at people interested in doing science evolving from astrophotography to doing science, someone interested in what they can do for science as an amateur without experience in that specific field of science. Making the jump from just a telescope, mount and camera to contributing scientific data either takes a lot of time to build up equipment or more up-front money than most are willing to add on top of their astrophotography setup. That’s all I really wanted to get across (for the spectroscopy part of it).

Keep doing great work in spectroscopy and photometry. Robin, you have a sweet setup for spectroscopy and Ed, your name is a very common one in photometry. You both do great stuff


Edited by jfrech14, 06 October 2019 - 07:47 AM.


#13 robin_astro

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 08:22 AM

spending $2-3k on a spectroscopy setup to go on the telescope wasn’t a price I could justify because I would have to decide between my imaging camera or the spectroscopy setup and then decide if I wanted to do science that night or image. I just never got that many clear nights in the first place.

Yep I agree, spectroscopy and imaging aren't very compatible (I have enough of a problem trying to decide which spectrograph to mount each night) and many of the amateurs doing Pro-Am are doing solely one or the other. (Though I do know of people doing differential photometry off the guider image) but if the bug bites, as it did for me, imaging may take a back seat.  The lack of clear nights is definitely something to agree on living just a few miles from the wettest place in England !

 

Best Wishes and here's to a few more clear skies please !

Robin



#14 Organic Astrochemist

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 01:52 PM

Hi!

Since there seem to have been a small revolution in (cmos) camera technology (low read noise, short exposures, lucky imaging) and in how much time people can put into their astrophotos (50+ hours and robotic observatories are not so uncommon), is there anything amateurs can do science wise now, that was not possible, say, 5-10 years ago?
I'm not asking about pretty pictures, but science.....

Best regards
Søren

If by the term “science”, the OP meant “contribute to publishing a peer reviewed article”, I think he should say the latter. It is incorrect and deleterious to suggest that the two are coterminous.

#15 Ed Wiley

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Posted 06 October 2019 - 03:06 PM

There are two reasons I reacted negatively to the initial jfresh14 post.

 

(1) I had just returned from the Okie-Tex Star party after giving one of the evening talking trying to encourage more amateur astronomers to get into the science end of the hobby and stressing just how easy it is to do solid science, even visually much less with a CCD. 

 

(2) The post seemed to me to discourage Universal Master from even trying to make a start by talking about "absolutes" when no "absolutes" are needed or even (for amateurs) encouraged.

 

I thank jfrech14 for his clarifying statements in subsequent posts. But I found the initial post to be one that discourages participation rather than encouraging participation by emphasing the negative rather than the positive. Perhaps I was too critical. So, just how much can we do?

 

AAVSO teaching two skills with those who use cameras: (1) CCD and (2) DSLR photometry. There are two CCD courses.

 

CCD1 teaches proper acquisition and application of darks, flats and bias images to calibrated science (light) images. Included in this course are issues such as determining the linearity of both ABG and NABG cameras and information about quantifying such camera characteristics as gain and dark current and the need to acquire science images with sufficient SNR of targets and comps.

 

CCD2 teaching how to transform relative magnitudes of variables into the standard photometric system using transform coefficients derived photometry of standard star fields and applying those transformation coefficients. By careful application this can produce magnitude estimates as good or better than professionals.

 

You can learn by yourself without shelling out money, just read the freely available photometry manual. https://www.aavso.or...hotometry-guide

 

 

There is no reason why a mono-CMOS camera cannot produce good photometry, in fact they are already doing this. The AAVSO challenge is to design a CMOS course similar to the CCD course. I hope to hear about this at the upcoming AAVSO meetings later this month.

 

So, what does the average astrophotographer with a CCD camera need? (1) Just about any scope, (2) a decent-enough EQ mount, (2) a mono-camera (ABG just fine). For timing minima of variables such as eclipsing binaries or determining asteroid light curves you can even get away with NO filters. For most other photometry you would need at least a Johnson-V (ca $216). 

 

Only have a DSLR. OK, we have a plan for that. https://www.aavso.or...bserving-manual

 

And what does the amateur who has no camera need? Eyes and a bit of training.

https://www.aavso.or...bserving-manual

 

Cheers, Ed


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#16 libmar96

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Posted 07 October 2019 - 08:17 AM

Hello UniversalMaster and others,

 

There is indeed an improvement in science, especially around variable stars. Cheaper cameras (in DSLR price in used condition) gave an excellent opportunity to try photometric observations with better precision. Years 2015-2018 were excellent for beginners to buy their first camera as a CMOS one. Nowdays, ZWO or QHY manufacturers are coming back to expensive (>2000$) cameras, in regular CCD price. Older cameras (like ASI178 or ASI290) are no longer produced. But, you can still find them anywhere.

 

The knowledge about variable stars and exoplanets dramatically improved in last years. More objects are being published and many "best ones" are often no longer required to be observed and have only an educational purpose. For example, the easiest exoplanets to catch (HD 189733 b or HD 209458 b) have orbits determined well enough for our precision. This, what we can do, is to improve the period by making observations years apart.

 

You might be interested in observing newly published variable stars. ASAS-SN or ATLAS catalogs greatly increased the number of them. They are often poorly studied and might have incorrect classifications or periods. Currently, there are just too many (like asteroids) to perform time-series observations, so mostly these contain only occasional datapoints from survey data. You will always find something to observe that would allow to determine parameters with better precision.

 

A lot of variable stars have been missed by automatic processes too. More photometric data from survey observatories are being published (eg. ASAS-SN, NSVS, SuperWASP, ZTF, Pan-STARRS1). That means, mostly what is variable and we observe, was probably also observed by an automatic observatory. But, there's too many data to handle. You will be probably the first one to spot "Yes, this is a variable star!" and you still claim the discovery. But it's always nice to attach survey data too, which allows to determine correct period or brightness amplitude.

 

As I'm working in such data mining, I can say that there are still so many possibilities and amateurs can do a lot there. The era of visual observations of periodic variable stars ended many years ago. Bright stars have been cleared (expect transiting exoplanets, but they are shallow), so mostly you're looking for 12+ magnitude stars. Observations of irregular variables (eg. classical and dwarf novae, rotating variables) are always worth to observe, because we are never 100% sure what can we expect next night.



#17 Ed Wiley

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Posted 07 October 2019 - 12:44 PM

Nice post libmar96, with one exception. The era of visual observations of variables stars is still ongoing. AAVSO encourages visual measures and there is a shortage of those trained in visual observations.

 

Ed 


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#18 quality guy

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Posted 07 October 2019 - 02:38 PM

I totally agree with Ed, that's the path i followed and had a long range goal of someday replacing my eyes with an electronic sensor. I started with visual observing of LPV's in the late 60's and switched to PEP in the early 80's (God bless Howard Landis). I still encourage others the need for visual observing  of variable stars and the real science that  be done using your eyes. Not trying to pile on just giving my two cents.



#19 libmar96

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Posted 07 October 2019 - 04:00 PM

Yes, of course visual observations of LPVs are still worthy! These often show surprises with additional variations. I was thinking about single-period ones, like cepheids, where the light curve pattern is repetitive. Here two time-series photometric observations made 10 years apart should give period precision (in days) up to 9 digits, while consistent visual observations (with density like one per week) would give precision just up to 7 digits. And of course, it's worth to mention that we all start variable star research by visual observing, to find out how this works!


Edited by libmar96, 07 October 2019 - 04:01 PM.


#20 KMA

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Posted 08 October 2019 - 12:21 PM

LPV of the month (AAVSO) is V CrB.
Here is my modest contribution
purely visual...
Best wishes to everyone
KMA

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#21 RadioAstronomer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 01:26 AM

Not sure if this will interest the OP but recently radio telescopes have become available for the amateur. 

https://www.radio2sp...adio-telescope/

There are frequencies at which the sky has not even been mapped yet. I encounter this quite often when doing mm and sub-mm wave spectroscopy, and see emission lines in my spectra that correspond to molecular clouds that have not been cataloged yet.

It's a great time to be alive, both for professional and amateur astronomers alike :)


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