Variable Star Astronomy
The study of variable stars is very popular
as a hobby as well as a science. Many variable stars can be seen with
the naked eye and amateur astronomers have played a large role in monitoring
the changes in brightness of these stars. The aspects involved with
variable star analysis make it an ideal learning tool for undergraduate
students as well as people in other fields. Studying variable stars
is not only interesting scientifically, but it also helps to improve
math and computer skills in the process. Variable stars are an excellent
introduction to astronomy and have even been used as projects for senior
high school students. The American Association of Variable Star Observers
(AAVSO) has developed a program for high school students which can be
found at http://hoa.aavso.org.
Variable stars give amateur astronomers the chance to participate in
observing stars as well as analyzing them.
Something as simple as magnitude changes
can provide a lot of information about what is going on inside a star.
Research in variable stars can provide astronomers with valuable information
about various stellar properties - like mass, radius, luminosity, temperature,
structure, material composition, and overall evolution - and how and
why they change. In turn, this information can be used in aiding the
analysis of other stars. Variable stars can also be used to provide
insightful information about the universe as a whole. For example, Cepheid
Variables have played a pivotal role in determining distances to far
away galaxies and the age of the universe.
and telescope website provides a list of variable stars that can
be seen with the naked eye, as well as charts to find them and tips
for observing. For more advanced observers who are looking to contribute
to scientific studies the AAVSO
website contains detailed information on procedures and targets.
Or if you are more interested in analyzing data the Where to Get Data
section can help you find pre-existing observations. The How to Analyze
Data section gives links to several programs that can help you interpret
If you are new to stars, you should check
out Professor Jim Kaler's stars
website. If you are new to variable stars, you should check out
our pages on *terminology* and on *types of variable stars*.