AAVSO on Twitter

I am a happy member of the AAVSO. The organization organizes amateurs and professionals on a global scale who are interested in variable stars; furthermore, the AAVSO has built up and maintained crucial parts of the infrastructure of variable star astronomy: the VSP, the VSX, the JAAVSO. I gladly pay the membership dues.

But the Twitter account of the AAVSO is way off. Some recent headlines: “A galaxy without dark matter??!!”, “Astronomers have made the first definitive detection of a radioactive molecule in interstellar space… #aavso #coolscience”, “A young star devouring its planet??!!!” et cetera et cetera.

Frankly, in my opinion, this is not what AAVSO’s about; I can get my daily fix of this gosh-wow popular science elsewhere, and it doesn’t guide me when developing my observing programmes and it doesn’t provide me with a high-density feed of information on what is going in variable star astronomy.

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Is R CrB brightening?

Recent observations of R CrB recorded in SAAF/V database SVO.

R CrB has been on a plateau during some time, hovering 1.5-2 magnitudes below the normal maximum magnitude. But recently an upward trend has been visible; last night I observed it at 7.2.

The current minimum must be one of the longest in recorded history.

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Searching for a meteorite

The Swedish Allsky Meteor Network tracked a bolide on November 28, 2016 that could possibly have produced a fall. Calculations by Eric Stempels, coordinator of the network, gave coordinates on the ground, should the bright meteor have produced meteorites.

On the initiative of Johan Warell, leader of the Solar System Section of SAAF, a meteorite search was organised during the spring. We didn’t find a meteorite, but still it was good fun trying!

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Meeting with SAAF

Last weekend SAAF, the Swedish Association of Amateur Astronomers, met in Beddingestrand, for a couple of days of talks, observing &c. Great meeting old and new friends!

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Neglected miras

50 neglected miras is the theme for a programme run by SAAF/V, the variable star section of SAAF since February 2012. We have, at the time of writing, amassed 8826 observations, observations have been analysed and new knowledge has emerged from these observations. A number of objects in the programme has been updated in the VSX, and we are working on a paper manuscript on the observations. It has been a very rewarding experience to work in this programme, acquiring knowledge and an understanding of these objects that in many cases were discovered to be variable stars in photographic surveys 50-75 years ago but then more or less neglected, besides making several discoveries “on the side” about objects in the vicinty of the miras.

After that, we’ve began another programme on yet another group of neglected miras, this time 25 of them. It will be interesting to see these objects come into light as we observe them.

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No sunspots

I just observed the Sun: no sunspots, just like the other day. The current sunspot cycle has been quite low.

Since a number of years, I am reporting my sunspot observations to the international data centre in Brussels; monitoring such dynamic celestial phenomena is very meaningful, I think.

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R Dra past max

The current R Dra maximum was, as noted earlier, comparatively bright. My brightest observation was at 6.2 on December 13. Here are the latest six maxima as reported by Swedish observers:rdra

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Bright max of R Dra

R Draconis is heading for a comparatively bright maximum. I observed it at 6.4 this evening. Yet another example of the personality of miras that makes them, even the brighter ones, such interesting phenomena to follow.

R Dra during 2015 according to AAVSO data. It is heading for one of the brightest maximas in years.

R Dra during 2015 according to AAVSO data. It is heading for one of the brightest maximas in years.

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This year’s spring meeting

We had a great meeting in Gothenburg with the variable star group SAAF/V, our third spring meeting in four years, so it is becoming something of a tradition. Here are some pictures:

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Low sunspot stats

Paradoxically as it may sound, I find observing the sun these days very exciting. Few sunspots show up – today’s lunch-break observation with the 90mm Maksutov showed 3 groups and 6 spots – and the maximum last year of solar cycle 24 was very weak. It seems to be one of the weakest cycles since regular observations commenced in the mid-18th century, but by no means is it the weakest cycle sunspot-wise.

So even though there are not much action on the solar disc these days, being there to observe this feeble solar activity is very interesting and it feels meaningful to be one of stations of the network of observers reporting data to the international sunspots data centre. On any given day these at the moment, we are about 25 stations reporting observations, so it really feels that one is making a contribution to the centuries-long series of sunspot data.

Sometimes, in monitoring celestial phenomena, non-activity or low activity is also an interesting fact that would never be known had observers not been there to document it.

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