AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

A Study of RR Lyrae Variable Stars in a Professor-Student Collaboration using the American Public University System (APUS) Observatory (Abstract)

Volume 47 number 2 (2019)

David Syndergaard
American Public University System (APUS), 111 W. Congress Street, Charles Town, WV 25414; davesyndergaard@me.com
Melanie Crowson
American Public University System (APUS), 111 W. Congress Street, Charles Town, WV 25414; davesyndergaard@me.com

Abstract

(Abstract only) American Public University System (APUS), in support of astronomical research, has recently acquired an observatory that includes a 24-inch CDK telescope. This research project was the first instructor-student research collaboration using the APUS Observatory. The objective was to add to the body of knowledge of RR Lyrae variable stars. Collaboration using a remotely-controlled observatory presents both opportunities and challenges. This project proved that a professor and student, living in different states (Utah and Florida, respectively), using a telescope located in a third state, could successfully work together to analyze images and produce important results. The collaboration was a valuable learning experience for the instructor, the student, and the APUS STEM department. RR Lyrae variable stars provide insight into how stars form and evolve, including the general progression of their lives as compared to other stars more like our Sun. For this reason, it is important to study their variation in apparent magnitude (brightness). This project focused on obtaining photometric data and magnitude variations over the course of 10 months for 10 selected RR Lyrae stars. Light curves were constructed for four of the stars (NSV 13602, NSV 5394, NSV 7465, and NSV 7647). The results of this project include both scientific and educational lessons learned which are being applied in subsequent APUS scientific research.