Variable Star Astronomy

You are invited on a journey into the hearts of the stars—to see the rhythms of their pulsations, and to gain an understanding of how they evolve.

Variable Star Astronomy, formerly published as Hands-On Astrophysics, was developed for anyone who is interested in astronomy and in learning more about the behaviors and properties of stars. The conversion of the curriculum to electronic format has been completed for the Student Manual and the Teacher Pages. The supporting VSTAR software may be accessed here: The AAVSO, with support from the Chandra X-Ray Center, is delighted to make this rich educational content available to you, free-of-charge, below. If you have any questions or comments please contact us. Enjoy!
    About VSA
    Using the Manual, teacher.pdf

Introduction and Table of Contents, .pdf


UNIT 1: Planets and Stars

Chapter 1: The Solar System and Beyond, .pdf | teacher.pdf

Chapter 2: The Nature of Stars, .pdf | teacher.pdf

      UNIT 2: Introducing the Sky

    Chapter 3: Familiarizing Yourself With the Night sky, .pdf | teacher.pdf

    Chapter 4: Our Bearings in the Sky, .pdf | teacher.pdf

        UNIT 3: Observing Variable Stars

      Chapter 5: Introducing the Hands-On Astrophysics Constellations, .pdf | teacher.pdf

      Chapter 6: Measuring Variable Stars Visually, .pdf | teacher.pdf

      Chapter 7: Observing Variable Stars in the Real Sky, .pdf | teacher.pdf

          UNIT 4: The Message of Light

        Chapter 8: The Nature of Light, .pdf | teacher.pdf

        Chapter 9: The Life of a Star, .pdf | teacher.pdf

            UNIT 5: Analysis of Variable Stars

          Chapter 10: Statistical Concepts, .pdf | teacher.pdf

          Chapter 11: Variable Stars, Light Curves, and Variability, .pdf | teacher.pdf

          Chapter 12: Variable Stars and Phase Diagrams, .pdf | teacher.pdf

          Chapter 13: Variable Stars and O-C Diagrams, .pdf | teacher.pdf

                GLOSSARY, .pdf

            * In the original Hands-On Astrophysics distribution, there were slides available to practice magnitude estimates. Now there is an excellent online activity via the Chandra website:

            Online activity: "A Variable Star in Cygnus"
            Powerpoint slides to be used with the activity

            Copyright 1997/2010

            by The American Association of Variable Star Observers

            May be reproduced for non-commercial educational use only.