CCD cameras have long been used in the production of “pretty pictures” – the wonderful astrophotographs that we see in magazines, books and websites. However, CCD cameras also have a long history of scientific study, and with the plethora of commercial and free photometry software, they have become the mainstay of amateur research activities.
Note that like Visual Observing, this area of research within VSS is based around the technique of observing, rather than purely the nature of the objects being studied. Some of the projects below therefore overlap with the research areas that focus purely on specific types of variable stars.
Coordinator: Tom Richards
“Everybody knows” that wide, visually separated binaries provide an indispensable first step to astrophysics as well as the distance scale ladder. All we need to know is their distance by parallax methods, their orbital period P, and the apparent size of the orbit. True orbit follows, then their masses. Magnitudes at that distance give true luminosities which with their colour gives temperatures, thence their size. There’s no other way of making this first interstellar step.
Principal Investigator: Augusto Damineli VSS Coordinator: Mark Blackford
Eta Carinae is now so bright that its 400-year long history of photometry risks being interrupted. Ironically, this could happen in a phase when we finally can see the central stars almost un-obscured. Very few CCD observers today are able to continue this historical monitoring since the star saturates with 1 sec exposure time even using small aperture telescopes.
Continued visual estimations are strongly encouraged to monitor long term trends; however, Augusto Damineli and other professional astronomers also require precision photometry data for their models.