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Happy Birthday, Bright Star Monitor

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Posted by HQA on October 19, 2010 - 7:58am

A year ago, the Bright Star Monitor (BSM) started taking images at Tom Krajci's Astrokolkhoz observatory in New Mexico.  Over 87,000 images later, its future looks bright!

BSM has taken 87,152 science images and about 10,000 calibration images on 140 nights during the past year.  98 of those were deemed photometric in all or part.  Hundreds of targets have been monitored.  The object with the most data frames is Polaris, where we typically take 300-400 very short exposure images per night in order to reduce the effect of scintillation.  The object with the most nights of coverage is epsilon Aurigae.


Only 140 nights in a year for the southwestern U.S. is a very small number.  The typical numbers are about 1/3 photometric, 1/3 partly cloudy, and 1/3 cloudy for such sites, which would indicate that we should have observed on about 240 nights.  We lost a few nights due to equipment failures - the filter wheel stopped turning; the mount firmware caused the telescope to head south if you pointed to an object near the meridian; the computer failed.  On a few more nights, Tom went skiing or had other commitments.  On many more nights, Tom did not open as he is very conservative about the weather - if the humidity is too high, or there is chance for fog or rain, then things stay closed.  The weather pattern seemed to be cloudier than normal, at least for New Mexico. In reality, few good nights were missed, and marginal nights with this large field of view are often not good enough for photomety anyway.

What's on tap for the next year?  We will be dropping the cepheid targets, as they don't need to be continuously monitored.  We'll keep eps Aur in the queue for the remainder of its season and probably next season as well.  There is the upcoming Orion monitoring campaign with Matt Templeton and the MOST satellite.  Some of the VGUIDE bright variables from Chandra will be put on the program, and we'll continue to monitor Stella Kafka's M dwarfs for activity. This leaves lots of available time for your projects, so be sure to think about this little guy and what it can do for you!

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