"How [my students and I do science with AAVSO Data--and How You Can, Too]"
with John Percy
Variable stars provide astronomers with unique and important information about the nature, evolution, and behavior of stars. AAVSO observers contribute mightily to this enterprise. For half a century, I have been engaged in variable star research, and in supervising and mentoring undergraduate research students, and even high school students. They can develop and integrate a wide range of science, math, and computing skills, motivated by the thrill of doing real science with real data—including AAVSO data—and publishing their results in journals such as JAAVSO. Skilled amateur astronomers can do this, too, whether they are observers or not! I will lead you through some of our projects using freely-available AAVSO data and, more recently, freely-available ASAS-SN data. You will learn about the particular strengths of these datasets, and about the complementary power of light curve analysis and time-series analysis, using the AAVSO VStar package. I will explain what we do, how, and why. And I will point out some of the science which can be done—by you and/or your students.
"How to [image star guts with cosmic music]"
with Jim Fuller
What lies at the center of a star? A stellar core is surrounded by a million Earths worth of plasma, so we cannot see it directly. However, the immense power of a star’s radiation causes nearly all stars to pulsate, creating “star quakes” at their surfaces. These oscillations are a collection of musical notes that uniquely define each star and are determined by its internal structure, just as the sound of a musical instrument is determined by its size and shape. Join me for a cosmic symphony as we journey to the center of the Sun, Saturn, white dwarfs, red giants, and heartbeat stars.
"How to [Understand Star Photometry: How it Works]"
with Richard Berry
Photometry seems like magic: you click on a star image and a magnitude pops up! But a lot happens between the moment you "click" and the moment that magnitude pops up on the computer screen. Berry will explore with you--in non-technical terms--what the computer has to do to turn your pixels into meaningful information. This talk will complement Bob Buchheim's "Introduction to Photometry" 2021 webinar. Berry will describe how to do photometry by presenting the inside picture of how photometry works and why it works so well. He will demonstrate using AIP4Win software (join email@example.com to download this freeware package), but all stellar photometry software works pretty much the same way.
"How to [Observe Optical Counterparts of High Energy Astronomical Transients]"
with Heinz-Bernd Eggenstein
This presentation focuses on observing three of the most energetic and interesting phenomena in the universe: the Gamma-Ray-Burst (GRB) and its optical afterglow, the Binary Neutron Star (BNS) Merger resulting in a “kilonova,” and the Core-Collapse Supernova (and here specifically the next such event in our own galaxy).
At first glance, none of these three event classes seem to be well suited for the amateur astronomer because their first signals reaching us can only be seen by professional observatories: the Earth’s atmosphere shields us against gamma rays, so Gamma Ray Bursts are typically detected by satellites like FERMI and SWIFT. Binary Neutron Star Mergers so far can only be detected with high confidence by huge gravitational wave observatories. And, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the very first signal of the next galactic core collapse supernova will actually be a burst of neutrinos, minutes to hours before the optical supernova signal can be seen.
However, in all three cases, professional astronomers broadcast “alerts” of such events through channels that are now available to the public, some more well known than others. We will discuss how amateurs can use these channels and join professional-amateur collaboration projects to make meaningful observations of these most fascinating events. While observing these transients remains challenging for various reasons, being prepared for “target of opportunity” observations should be a skill that can be rewarded by outstanding and important amateur observations.