The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 33, Number 2 February, 2001

icon Unusual Variable Objects For Visual Observers
by Mike Simonsen

Many of you are familiar with the three typical classes of variable stars. These are:

1- pulsating variables like Miras and Cepheids

2- eclipsing variables like Algol and Beta Lyra

3- eruptive variables like R Corona Borealis and U Geminorum

There are a host of other objects which show variations in brightness that can be monitored by amateur astronomers.

Novae- These are stars that suddenly brighten in our galaxy, sometimes becoming visible to the naked eye. (To be accurate, there are novae in other galaxies as well, but they are much fainter and more difficult to detect from earth.) They are thought to be binary systems much like dwarf [continued]

icon Members
by Joe Van Poucker

icon The SwapShop
by Larry Kalinowski

astro chatter Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

The annual awards banquet was well attended last year. A quick glance around the room showed about fifty people of all shapes and sizes. All with a common interest, the universe we live in. Dr. Gary Ross headed [continued]

icon Cranbrook Meeting Minutes
Cranbrook, January 8, 2001

The Cranbrook meeting started at 7:30 p.m. It started with welcoming new guests or any members to Cranbrok for the first time. Mike Simonsen passed out an article titled "NASA shoots for the 'spectacular' landing". [continued]

icon Board Meeting Minutes
Board, January 12, 2001

The club had it's first annual board meeting at Mike Simonsen place. The meeting started at 7:20 p.m. The first thing that was voted on was to make Jamie Judd the club's Secretary, unanimously. Everything was exchanged [continued]

icon Unusual Variable Objects For Visual Observers, continued

novae. A small dense star, like a white dwarf or neutron star, rotating around a more average sun-like star, accreting material into a disc around the dwarf.For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, these systems remain quite stable until something tips the balance and a thermonuclear runaway reaction occurs. The processes that trigger these events are not well understood, so scientists are eager to study such events when they happen.

Supernovae- These are stars in the final catastrophic death throws of stellar evolution. When all the lighter elements in a star have been used up and the star is forced to create energy by converting metals into heavier elements, there comes a point at which the process takes more energy than it produces. At this point, the star begins a giant collapse that ends in a cataclysmic explosion that can be brighter than the entire galaxy in which it resides. Astronomers have been using the apparent brightness of supernovae to refine our measurement estimates to distant galaxies, so supernovae are of particular interest to professional astronomers also.

Gamma Ray Bursts- Satellites with sophisticated detectors are now able to determine the position of these outbursts which are the byproduct of something happening that matches the energy output of entire galaxies. Some of these outbursts produce enough energy that there is an optical counterpart visible for perhaps a day or so. Amateurs from an astronomy club in Buffalo, NY recently recorded the optical counterpart of a gamma ray burst using a homemade 12" Newtonian and a cookbook CCD camera. The AAVSO is creating a network to notify observers with CCD equipment, via beepers, email and other notification, of the relative positions of these bursts when they happen so that they may try to record them in a timely fashion. We really have no clear idea what the cause of these massive outbursts are, so needless to say, professional astronomers are very keen to study these events.

X-Ray Transients- Like gamma ray bursts, satellites also pick up sources producing x-rays. Occasionally these flare up in the visual range and we can study the light fluctuations of these objects. Recently the black hole binary XTEJ1118+480 was visible for a few months around magnitude 12.8. In this case, it is the accretion disc around a black hole that is emitting visible light. Obviously, you can't see a black hole, but we can see the effects of one. Joe Van Poucker and I have both logged observations of this object and reported them to the AAVSO. It has now faded below 16th magnitude. Professional astronomers are interested in observations of these objects at all wavelengths, including visual.

Planetary Nebulae- Although many claim to have seen the central star in M57, I have never seen it visually, even in scopes up to 22 inches. There are, however, some planetary nebulae whose central star is easily seen, and these stars, at times, can show fluctuations. One such object in my current observing program is V651 Monocerotis. This is the central star in a planetary nebula in Monoceros. Since the theories of the formation of planetary nebulae are still evolving, these objects are of special interest to some astronomers.

Active Galactic Nuclei- AGN are known by a number of different types.

Seyfert galaxies , named after Carl Seyfert, come in two types based on spectroscopic differences. Type 1 Seyferts show broad emission lines, indicating hot tenuous gases moving at high velocities. Type 2 Seyferts show narrow emission lines, indicating more slowly moving gases.

Quasars were originally described as Quasi Stellar Radio Sources, which was contracted to the word Quasars. They were the optical counterparts of what were originally believed to be "radiostars". As it turns out, they are galactic nuclei, not stars at all. Furthermore, many were eventually discovered that were radio quiet. The name is still used in spite of its inappropriateness.

Blazars are AGN that are radio loud/ bright and show visual flux over short time scales, days or, in rare cases, hours.

As it turns out, many named variable stars turned out to be active galactic nuclei. Notably, BL Lacertae, which is the prototype of galactic nuclei that have rather featureless spectra but exhibit rapid fluctuations in brightness. Other former variable "stars" which have turned out to be AGN are W Com, AP Lib and BW Tau.

The current models explaining the characteristics of AGN all include a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc and clouds of ionized gases moving at high velocities. The blazar OJ287 is thought to be a binary black hole system!

The fact that amateurs can make valuable visual observations of these objects is almost as amazing as the fact that we can see them at all. Markarian 421, a BL Lac object in UMa, is believed to be 400 million light years away. 3C66A, another BL Lac object is estimated to be 4 billion light years distant.

I would like to end with this analogy of visual observers who study cataclysmic variables and many of the objects discussed in this paper. We are much like the fire spotters in the forest service. We keep a watchful eye on hundreds of objects that the professionals don't have the time or resources to monitor themselves. When we spot a flare-up, or something unusual happening, we notify the astronomical community. Then the professionals who have an interest in and the facilities to study these events turn the "big guns" on them.

During this last year, I have made over 5000 variable star/object estimates. In that time, I have personally detected three events of some interest to the astronomical community, the most recent outbursts of QY Perseii, W Comae, and V725 Aquilae.

W Comae was a recent addition to my program. I had only made a half dozen or so negative estimates of it before I detected an outburst. QY Perseus I detected on a rather crummy night in December from my back yard, where you can see stars all the way down to second magnitude! I was actually just anxious to try out a new Nagler eyepiece that night. V725 Aql was detected after leaving the Monday Cranbrook meeting early when it looked like the weather would cooperate.

One might consider all these discoveries a matter of luck or "being in the right place at the right time". For me, the right place is 'at the eyepiece' and the right time is 'as often as possible'.

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icon Members

New Members for December 2000: W.A.S. Anniversaries for February 2001:
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icon The SwapShop

This column is for those who are interested in buying, trading or selling items. Call 810-776-9720 (larrykalinowski@yahoo.com). if you want to put an item for sale or trade in this section of the WASP. The ad will run for six months. The month and year the ad will be removed, is also shown.
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astro chatter Astro Chatter, continued

the presentation with a treatise on art and science and why astronomy can be both, depending on the individuals taste. He backed up his talk with a slide show, A Night At Big Jack's, created by The DOAA (Detroit Observational and Astrophotographic Association), a now defunct astronomy group in which he and a few other people from the DAS and WAS, were members. The dialog for the show was all his, the slide presentation was assembled and melded to a superb, digitally recorded, stereo sound track by John (big Jack) Szymanski.

The main reason for the banquet was to honor those who have achieved in the name of astronomy. Awards went to Frank Spisak for the work he's done with club activities. Robert Halsall, for the grand completion of our domed, computer operated, 12.5 inch, convertible, Newtonian-Cassagrain telescope. Steve Greene for the completion of an eighteen inch Dobsonian. Jamie Judd, for her fine work at producing the clubs monthly WASP newsletter. Joe Van Poucker for astronomer of the year and Jeff Bondono for his dedication to our club website. If I've missed anyone, let me know and I'll correct this announcement in the next issue of the WASP. All awardees fully deserve those awards and a standing ovation.

The raffle, the event most of the members were waiting for, produced some fine products. Third prize, a 22mm, Plossl eyepiece, went to Bill Whitney. The second prize, a copy of Real Sky, that amazing reproduction of the Palomar Sky Survey, went to Steve Greene, a past president and top prize, a marvelous 8.8mm, super wide angle, eyepiece was won by our outgoing president, Blaine McCullough. It looks as though it pays to be an officer in our club, based on the raffle alone.

Mike Simonsen, our new president, has chalked up another discovery of an unscheduled, cataclysmic, variable, found while observing during December 25. Mike's discovery has been reported to the proper authorities and confirmed by other observers around the world. We kid Mike about it a lot, but he is Michigan's most prolific variable star observer. Congratulations Mike.

Bob Watt, has boosted his accomplishment of telescope building, for UAW members, by finishing two more classes for Cleveland Woodworking. His total of finished, six inch Dobsonians now stands at seventy-one. Bob says he's going to continue running more classes, hopefully increasing the total even more. Incidentally, If your're handy with common hand tools and familiar with how a Newtonian telescope works, contact Bob, he could have a job waiting for you.

The members of the mirror making group sadly witnessed the dissasembly of the mirror grinding machine that was setup in Blaine McCullaugh's basement. The group will continue grinding and polishing without it though. It had to be moved to make room for a basement upgrade, promised to Blain's wife Marylou.

An interesting question came up on the web site heavens-above.com. It was "Will the ISS be brighter now that the new solar panels are installed"? The answer: maybe. The solar panels will always be facing the Sun. As a result, any reflection will always be back to the Sun. In fact, the possibility exists that any shadow produced by the panels could even help reduce some reflection from the ISS to the Earth. Only time will tell just how much of a gain or loss of light there will be. Right now the ISS varies in brightness from zero magnitude to about fourth, depending on how high it is above the horizon. The addition of a visiting space shuttle will increase the brightness considerably, making the combination appear another magnitude brighter.

The January computer meeting, on the 25th, will be at Gary Gathen's home in Pleasant Ridge, MI. He's located at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and about half a block west of Woodward Ave. The February meeting will be on the 22nd. All meetings occur on the fourth Thursday of the month. Exceptions will be announced at the regular WAS meetings.

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icon Cranbrook Meeting Minutes, continued

It is basically saying that the Shoemaker craft is running out of money, out of time, and will be out of fuel soon. Astronomy Day will be April 28th at Cranbrook. Steve Greene talked about the Open House that was at Stargate the weekend before the Cranbrook meeting. Marty Kunz had asked anyone if they saw the Partial Solar Eclipse on Christmas, and everyone raised their hands. Mike asked if any one did any recent observing and then passed out some pictures of the Partial Solar Eclipse that the Variable Star Group had taken. There were four from Joe Van Poucker and one from Rick Gossett. Clay Kessler invited anyone to come to Lake Erie for some observing on January 20th. Contact him if you are interested in going. Dave Ciali had mentioned that he observed a meter shower on Dec. 23 that had -1 to -2 magnitude meteors with some colors. Steve Greene recommends that if you are interested in variable stars, you should go out and get the variable star chart software called ProjectPluto. It will help you finding the things that you want. Project Pluto is on the web- you just type ProjectPluto.com and it should take you right to it. There is an anouncement that if you want to be trained on the 12 inch scope you should talk to Steve Greene. Mike Simonsen found another outburst on Christmas Eve with a new eyepiece that he got.

Marty Kunz is doing something new, what he calls Orbit Challenge, where you would go out and find the variable stars around something and then give a talk about it. This month is the constellation Orion, so go out and find Orion and look for the variable stars and anything else around it.

Kym Dyer has added that there are approximately 433 asteroids that have not been found and if anyone is interested on helping out you should talk to him or Ray Travis. If you want to go on your own you can go to the U of M Science Library on the 3rd floor and look up unrecovered asteroids. We took a break at 8:45. Returned from break at 9:05 and followed with a talk and a video of the Partial Solar Eclipse from Ken Bertin.

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icon Board Meeting Minutes, continued

from the existing officer to the new officers. There are some goals that we are hoping to accomplish this year, like increasing the membership, treasury, participation of the members and the sub-group activities, improving the style and content of the WASP, updating the WAS library, and most importantly build the shed for the 22 inch scope. Improvements done to Stargate are also planned. Here are some issues that were voted on at the board meeting: First, the library budget. The vote was to spend $200 or soon new books and to replace the ones that are getting old. Secondly, to buy a case for the 8" SCT and decide how much we would spend on it exactly. The next issues brought up were about doing improvements to Stargate and the 22" shed. One thing that everyone agreed on was to drop our membership to the Astronomical League, another was discuss the dues and to bring it up at the Macomb meeting. We also talked about updating the WASP newsletter and the WASP web site. If you have any ideas we would like to hear about them. The meeting ended at 9:50 p.m.

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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on January 18, 2001. Modified by Doug Bock on February 18, 2001