Variable Stars
High School

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 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.

     The sky 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 your data.

     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*.


Site created by JoAnne Hosick and Vince Velocci, and extended by Akos Bakos and Artur Chudolinski. Last updated July 19, 2004.