Spectroscopy Section - Education and Training

The Importance of Ongoing Spectral Monitoring of Variable Stars

Spectroscopic monitoring of variable stars is a relatively unexplored domain within astronomy, with the potential to produce a wealth of new information. While individual objects, such as some cataclysmic variables, have been studied with high time resolution spectroscopic observations spanning days or weeks, long-term spectroscopic monitoring data for variables does not yet exist. Many interesting variable phenomena occur on time scales of months or years, and we lack the information that could prove critical in advancing our understanding, and in solving long-standing problems, such as the perplexing behavior of semi-regular variables or the still-not-fully-understood RV Tauri variables. Even for shorter period variables, there is much to be learned from high time resolution spectroscopic observation. There are many bright variables with little spectroscopic data available and observers with spectrometers on smaller telescopes have an opportunity to make a significant contribution.

CHOICE Course in Spectroscopy

The AAVSO provides on-line courses in a variety of topics related to variable star astronomy called CHOICE in Astronomy (the Carolyn Hurless Online Institute for Continuing Education in Astronomy ). The CHOICE course for spectroscopy is conducted annually by our senior scientific advisor, Steve Shore, and covers material designed to help you better understand the nature of spectral signatures and the physical processes behind them.

View more information on CHOICE courses, including the upcoming schedule.

AAVSO Spectroscopy Manual

The AAVSO spectroscopy manual “AAVSO Guide to Getting Started in Spectroscopy” is a guide intended for anyone new to spectroscopy as well experienced observers wanting to refresh their knowledge. This manual covers the equipment used, procedures and software for acquiring and processing spectra, and information on assessing the quality of your spectra.

Download the AAVSO Guide to Getting Started in Spectroscopy.

Spectroscopy Section’s video library

The Spectroscopy Section maintains a collection of links to recorded presentations on the topic of spectroscopy in various AAVSO contexts. This library includes spectroscopy-related episodes of our regular webinar series, as well as the intensive 2020 AAVSO Spectroscopy Workshop.

View the Spectroscopy Section's video library.

Spectroscopy Forum

The spectroscopy forum provides a way for members to ask questions, post useful information, receive announcements and exchange other information between, and in addition to, the regular monthly meetings.

Access the spectroscopy forum.

Slit Loss Calculator

This spreadsheet was developed by Scott Donnell for the purpose of calculating slit losses; that is, the drop in flux, reduction in signal-to-noise ratio, and increased inaccuracy in the continuum which occurs when a spectrograph's slit is not rotated to match the parallactic angle of a target.

Download the Slit Loss Calculator

Scott first revealed this calculator during his presentation on slit rotation at our January 9th, 2024 meeting. Here is a link to his accompanying slides:

Slit Rotation v3.pptx

Past Presentations

During our February 14th, 2024 meeting, Rick Diz presented on the scientific research into the spectroscopic variability of Be stars which he has recently been conducting alongside a team of other amateur astronomers. He has kindly shared a copy of his slide deck, for reference:

During our January 9th, 2024 meeting Scott Donnell gave an overview of slit rotation. His slide deck is linked below, for reference:

During our December 12th, 2023 meeting, Bob Buchheim gave a talk about absolute flux calibration. He has kindly provided a copy of his slides for reference: