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SS Cyg observers?

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Matthew Templeton
SS Cyg observers?

Hello everyone,

Jim Roe made a comment here about being the only CCD observer of SS Cyg at that time, and Sara Beck also mentioned to me privately that she and her husband were one of few observers of the most recent outburst.  I did a check of the database for this year and last and found that the number of nights with at least one observation had dropped slightly (80 nights between November 25 and February 25, 2013, versus 84 over the same period a year ago), while the total number of observations received was down by a larger amount (840 this year versus 1028 last).

These aren't huge changes, and it's definitely not the season for Cygnus.  But for something as historically important as SS Cyg, it did catch my eye, and there have been years where we had at least one observation for around 360 days of the year.  If you're a person who formerly monitored SS Cyg and other similar stars but don't anymore, please feel free to share your reasons why here, I'd like to know.

Clear skies,


padovan's picture
SS Cyg observers

HI Matt,

I follow SS Cyg since...1974 visually,at my very early beginning as amateur,was my first variable star I followed with a 12x50.

As you can see from the database at AAVSO I still follow the star.It is in my CV program.Right now for my T5 in New Mexico is little early but I think couple of weeks I will start with march program and of course SS Cyg is included.

Clear skies

 Stefano Padovan,AAVSOpsd                          


Matthew Templeton
SS Cyg

Hi Stefano,

That's good news, thank you for observing! 

SS Cyg is a difficult target right now.  I'm not greatly worried about losing SS Cyg coverage yet, but it is clearly happening for many other stars which does worry me a lot.

Gustav Holmberg
Any objects you are


[quote=Matthew Templeton] 

SS Cyg is a difficult target right now.  I'm not greatly worried about losing SS Cyg coverage yet, but it is clearly happening for many other stars which does worry me a lot.


Any objects you are particularly worried about? Are they predominantly miras?

Perhaps one could draw up an 'endangered species'-list and build a campaign around some of those? Introduce some new categories of observer awards given to observers who reverse a trend of diminishing coverage for some objects?

Or reserve blocks of AAVSOnet time that is then made available to observers observing such stars; regarding AAVSOnet time allocation today, arguments along the lines of 'this and that object is losing coverage and I want to monitor them for years' is, I would guess, perhaps today not seen as good arguments - I might be wrong! - for the time allocation committee, as compared to some other types of arguments and programs.

On a more general note, it is both kind of sad that we seem to be losing coverage of stars and a bit paradoxical, given the widespread availability of telescopes and CCDs today. Is one reason that some observers are gravitating towards rapid time series of fewer numbers of objects that are, for some reason, seen as more exciting than long-term monitoring of more slowly varying objects?

/Gustav, HGUA

padovan's picture
SS Cyg

Hi Matt again.

If this can help you,this are the CV that I follow since 2009 with no interruption (except change of seasons of course)



IW And

V1101 Aql

V991 AQL

AE Aqr

TT Ari

AE Aur

AB Aur

Z Cam

AM Cas

WW Cet

YZ Cnc

AT Cnc

CH Cyg

EM Cyg

SS Cyg

V2493 Cyg


BK Lyn

CN Ori

GK Per

KT Per

U Sco


FY Vul

WW Vul

Cleare skies.


rmu's picture
I'm still observing SS Cyg when I am able to

Hi Matt and everybody,

Even I can reach dimmer cataclismic variables with my ccd equipment, I keep observing SS Cyg. My season for this variable star goes from august to december because my observing site is oriented to the west side and there is a ceiling over the telescope.


I am glad to preserve some of the targets I have observed in my first years as a variable star observer.

Best Regards


FRF's picture
I regularly observe SS Cyg

I regularly observe SS Cyg with DSLR camera + 300m (zoom) telephoto lens. Just need some time to do the photometry and submit my data.

This winter was terrible in Hungary, by the way. Weeks without any observations. Actually last time I observed SS Cyg with a 25cm Dobsonian from Polaris Observatory. I hope can type and submit my observations soon. I know other HAA/VSS observers also regularly follow SS Cygni, their observations will be submitted too.

Matthew Templeton
Long-term CV coverage

Hi Gustav,

Well, nearly all stars are showing declines in nightly coverage, LPVs, CVs, and everything else.  I covered this in a paper in the Centennial JAAVSO (paper here) that simply pointed out declines in coverage were happening.  I specifically didn't make a scientific assessment as to whether that was bad in terms of science, because ultimately the research community needs to say "yes, continued long-term monitoring of CVs/LPVs is useful".  That has been said very forcefully for LPVs, but I don't think it's as clear for CVs.

Personally I think CVs may show interesting changes over time that only continuous monitoring is going to catch -- WW Cet comes to mind.  Whether the detection of such changes is going to yield new astrophysical knowledge is a question for CV researchers, but without the data the question can't be examined at all.

And to be clear, by "continuous coverage", I simply mean at the same level these objects have been observed historically.  If stars from the CV (or LPV) Legacy lists were in your observing program before, it would be great if you could continue them.  If you didn't observe them before, it would be great if you could take an occasional look at them. That's really the main guidance that the Legacy lists provide.

As for what's driving the change, I think people are understandably attracted to objects that (a) vary quickly, and (b) where a researcher is asking for data and publishing papers fairly quickly (e.g. Joe Patterson & CBA).  Long-term monitoring has a different purpose and it's never clear whether observations will bear fruit in the form of a publication.  I can point to many cases every year where a researcher looks at the historical record of some star, and I can also point to the publication histories of individual stars, but I can never promise that any specific star will be examined at a given time.  Again, the Legacy lists were set up so that stars that have been historically well observed and well studied will continue to be so; that way, the data have the highest potential for being useful.

Gustav Holmberg
Hi Matthew, I just read

Hi Matthew,

I just read your interesting paper, which is interesting but also a bit saddening to read; seems that whole realms of potentially interesting astronomical data are appearing on the sky and then disappearing, without anyone observing.

Also, I think your interpretation has much to it. High-cadence monitoring that ends in a submitted paper two months down the line have attraction to many observers, so, as you say, it's an understandable attraction. But there's a value in itself in doing long-term monitoring. A bit like surveys, a classical astronomical technique. One never knows what will turn up. (I sometimes think of the AID database as something akin to the Palomar Sky Survey or the early radio surveys (3C) but in the time dimension instead of the spatial dimension.)

One loses several things by not doing long-term monitoring. We don't know at all what astronomers might be finding scientifically fruitful and interesting in the future, and it might very well be that an object or class of variables we've been following for years turns out to be interesting to astronomers in 2042. The amateurs who began monitoring R CrB and all those other stars way back, without the incentive of being co-author on a paper two months later, produced data that have been and are very important for understanding some astronomical phenomena.

There's also and always the possibility of serendipity; objects might start behaving weirdly, and we would never know that unless we did long-term monitoring.

This is an important issue and your efforts and other AAVSO activities to highlight and remedy this - through the legacy lists, your paper &c - are indeed commendable!


Aldebaran's picture
I'm observing SS Cyg!

Hello, everyone!

This is already an old topic and it hasn't been active in months, but I'm still willing to participate this conversation.

I'm still quite a newbie in variable star observing. I've been a very active and passionate amateur astronomer for nearly 15 years, and I've always been interested in variable stars but I seriously didn't observe them until 2011. That year I started to observe variable stars, and I have been mostly a variable star observer since then. I have always been solely a visual observer, and I enjoy observing variable stars 'the old way'.

I think SS Cyg is a really entertaining star to observe, mostly because it's bright and so unpredictable. The only limitation for my observing is my relatively small instrument. I have a 4'' refractor, and I can easily observe SS Cyg while it is in outburst, but I can't make a reliable estimation of the star when it is in it's normal brightness. That's why I try to observe the star only when it is in outburst.

And also between the outbursts, some interesting things are still happening in this star system! There is some clear flickering evident, when looking the light curve. This autumn I once noticed this also by myself, when I was doing a routine check of this star, and it clearly appeared to be slightly brighter than 12 mag.

I'm wondering, how many visual observers are really trying to cathc these slight variations during the normal state of the star? When I'm looking the visual light curve of this star, the during the normal -periods of the star the light curve looks mostly like a solid line on the 12 magnitudes, but in the photometrical observations, the slight variations are evident!

Perhaps visual observers should pay more attention on these slight variations too, because it seems possible for visual observers to detect these variations also!

Clear skies to you all,

Juha Ojanperä (OJMA)

Turku, Finland

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