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AAVSO Long Period Variable Section

  Welcome to the AAVSO LPV Section page!

   Administrator: Richard Roberts   Contact

   Science Advisors: Dr. John Percy, Dr. Lee Anne Willson 



                                                LATEST UPDATE (MARCH 1 2019)

Hi all, here's another brief update on the LPV Section.  

As mentioned previously, we changed the The LPV of the Month to be the LPV of the Season from early 2019.  We're fortunate to have had an article submitted by Rich Roberts on DF Cyg.  DF Cyg is actually an RV Tau star and the LPV Section has taken RV Tua stars under it's wing!  With some similarities to LPV's, RV Tau stars are old yellow supergiants having a characteristic light variation with alternating deep and shallow minima. Their periods, defined as the interval between two deep minima, range from 30 to 150 days. Thanks to Rich for contributing this article. 

Readers are reminded about the Alert Notice issued requesting AAVSO observations of a selection of LPV's in support of a VLA campaign studying SiO masers.  Everyone with an interest in these stars is encourage to support this programme.  Details can be found in Alert Notice 645 and Alert Notice 660.

The AAVSO Target Tool includes all of the LPV's as listed in the Legacy, Legacy South and Percy lists of stars.  This is a great tool to allow you to effectively plan your LPV observing program.  It details when the particular stars were last observed and the recommended cadence for observations.  You can also configure it to list just those stars observable at your location.  Click on the button below to go straight to the latest LPV list.


                             Getting Started with the AAVSO LPV Section

Whether you are an active observer (of LPVs or other variable star types) or are a newcomer curious about LPVs and the AAVSO in general (and perhaps thinking about participating in observing variable stars) we hope that you find these pages of use! A goal of ours is to continually improve the usefulness of these pages to LPV observers and to stimulate continued interest in LPVs.  I would encourage everyone to read the paper from 2009 by Mike Simonsen and Kate Hutton on the establishment of the LPV Section.  It can be found here.

The AAVSO intends for the LPV Section to encourage the observation (whether by visual means or CCD/photoelectric photometry) of LPVs, to serve as a resource clearing house for LPV related science and information for observers, and to serve as a social hub for members of the extended AAVSO community interested in the science and observation of LPVs.

When we say "LPVs" we are not referring to a specific type of variable star, but rather to a large and diverse group of different types that we have chosen to place under the LPV umbrella. We choose to limit variable star types as LPV members to those whose brightness changes are due to pulsation and with periods (or approximate periods) longer than some dozens of days, up to periods of around 1000 days. Thus, Cepheid, RR Lyrae, and delta Scuti variables are pulsators, but their periods are too short to be included as LPVs. And, we do not include eclipsing binaries or eruptive-type variables, along with many other kinds of variables.

Even so, what we include as LPVs make up quite a few kinds of pulsating stars in terms of spectral type, stellar mass, and stage of evolution. Classification, for some, is difficult, either because the star in question has not been well observed, or some physical characteristic of the object is at odds with what most of the other stars placed in the same "box" have, such as stellar mass. We suggest you read the articles describing the LPV Zoo (found by following the link provided to the upper right on this page). These articles present the "official" descriptions (given in the General Catalog of Variable Stars, the internationally accepted clearinghouse for variable star types and cataloging) of the variables we include as LPVs, and additional information that helps enhance the official descriptions. There are LPV types that will interest almost anyone!

Our "bread and butter" LPVs are the "Miras", named after the prototype omicron Ceti, or "Mira The Wonderful". Mira was known to a number of ancient cultures, e.g., the Arabs and the Greeks, as a variable star. Miras are typically lower mass stars that are in the red giant phase of their evolution. The light curves for many look stable over years of observation, yet continued observation by the AAVSO and other variable star organizations has shown more than a few to be changing their periodicity, as well as exhibiting some unusual behavior in their light curves! These changes are indicative of the evolutionary processes taking place within the stars. Yes, these changes are slow to detect in any person's  lifetime, but detecting these changes makes these stars scientifically important, and validates the continued observation of them over a long time span. We also include the semi-regular red giant pulsators, the SRa and SRb types. These LPVs exhibit less regular (periodic) light curves than do Miras, presumably because these are in a somewhat different evolutionary stage in their lives. Again, studying their light curves has revealed some to be showing noteworthy behavior. More observations over long time periods are essential, as for Miras.

Then we have the SRc LPVs. These are believed to be massive stars that are in the red (super)-giant phase of their lives, probably on the way to eventually becoming supernovae. These stars tend to have longer, but less periodic, light curves than the Miras and semiregulars. These are rare stars. Some have low amplitude brightness ranges ( <= 1 magnitude) while other have ranges of several or more magnitudes, making these latter stars easy to observe by visual means.

We also include the "L" types of variables. These are variables that have poorly defined periodicity of brightness changes. Indeed, some may not truly be variables at all. Others may just have not been observed enough to determine if they actually belong in one of the categories mentioned above. The L types include red giants and supergiants.

Another LPV group comprises the RV Tauri variables. These are yellow supergiants in a later stage of evolution than the red giants. They are believed to be low mass stars, perhaps not much more than our Sun's mass. They exhibit unique light curves. Some light curves tend to be quite regular, with others showing a bit less regular curve and a superimposed "wave" of a longer periodicity. Hence, the subtypes of RVa and RVb. These variables have periods ranging from dozens of days to 100 or so days, notably shorter than the Miras and semi-regulars. These are also rare stars because they are believed to represent a very short lived evolutionary phase in their overall lives. Stellar evolution here is at a fast pace! Continual observation of the RV Tauris will likely reveal some interesting aspects of these objects.

Then we have the SRd LPVs. This is a bit of a mixed bag of pulsating variables. Most are thought to be low mass stars and in a late giant or supergiant stage of their lives. Their spectral types are typically F, G, or K, much like the RV Tauris. It is currently thought that these two types are related, each being in a somewhat different evolutionary stage. Here again, continued observation of the SRd and RV Tauri types may shed more light as to how these stars are related and to the details of late stellar evolution of low mass stars

The great majority of the LPVs described above in the AAVSO program have brightness amplitude changes that readily allow for accurate visual observation and brightness estimates. And, of course, all are accessible for photoelectric and CCD photometry measurements.

We encourage everyone to spend some time with the page links given to the right. These pages provide a good overview of what the LPV Section is about. 

Please browse the site to learn more about LPVs and how your observations will help science uncover more about these important variable stars.

You should also look through the full LPV Program and Legacy LPV, and Binocular Program lists to see which stars are right for you and worth adding to your observing program.  These are all included in the AAVSO Target Tool as well.  Don't forget, we also have the AAVSO Basic Observation Planner available on the AAVSO website as well! 

Check out the LPV Discussion Forum on the AAVSO Website! There is a discussion forum on the AAVSO website dealing with LPVs and related topics. Drop in to see what observers and researchers are talking about, ask questions and share your experiences and knowledge.

Telescopic LPVs for New Visual Observers
Okay, so you’ve been observing some naked eye and binocular variables for a while. Good for you! The stars in the AAVSO Ten Star Training Program can be fun and rewarding to observe for a lifetime.
Maybe you were drawn in by the Citizen Sky project and now you’re getting hooked on variable stars. Hey, it happens; you are not alone. 

Perhaps you already owned a telescope or you finally got that shiny new 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain you’ve had your eye on for Christmas. Now where do you look for interesting variables? We have some suggestions for you. These are fun stars to observe, AAVSO still needs observations of these stars, and best of all, they are easy to find and identify, so you won’t spend cold winter nights looking for them. You can spend your time observing them instead!
Read the full story


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