Popular Astronomy

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Stumble It More...

Wed, 05 Feb 2014 - SPA VSS - 2013 Yearly review

2013 Annual Activity Report for the Variable Star Section

There can be no doubt that 2013 has been one of the most exciting years for the section for a long time.

The turbulent star R Scuti went through a great period of activity throughout 2013 and we saw the star jumping back and forth from between naked eye visibility and back again to being visible only in telescopes and binoculars. R Scuti varies between magnitudes 4.2 to 8.6 and this year we saw the star go through its entire magnitude range. The light curve below shows the stars activity throughout 2013 and is constructed using observations from SPA members and others from around the world.

Back in April/May of the year we were treated to lovely brightening of the star Chi Cygni. This star has an incredible magnitude range from 3.3 to 14.2 and during the first part of the year we saw the star hitting magnitudes as high as 3.5 making it easily visible to the naked eye. Sadly the brightness was not to continue and the star steadily faded throughout the coming months and at the time of writing this review (Feb 2014) Chi Cygni’s current magnitude estimates are a faintly 12.6 !

The next few months saw the occasional very faint supernova and continued observations of many of the stars both in our observational programme and also observations of stars that are currently not in our programme. Regardless, all observations are welcomed and all of them are recorded in the society’s records.

In May we were treated to a dwarf nova in the constellation of Aquila. Officially designated as PNV J19150199 the dwarf nova remained a firm telescopic object and was tricky for some to observe. The next stunning astronomical variable star event that occurred in 2013 was the sudden appearance of an unexpected nova on the 14th August. This nova involved a star in the constellation of Delphinus and is now known as V339 Del. This sudden novae amazed the variable star community and many astronomers, amateur and professional, turned their scopes to this new star as it became an easy binocular object and a naked eye object under dark skies. An event like this obviously generates a great deal of interest and the section had numerous observations in the form of magnitude estimates, sketches and images. The American Association of Variable Star Observers stated that “At one point, more than thirty visual observers an hour were estimating and submitting data for this object.”

Observations for this year have been received from Rod Cuff, Tony Markham, Matthew Barrett, Jeff Stevens, Robin Scagell, Steven Coe, Thomas Jones, Ian Phelps, Ray Pearce, Steven Anderson, Graham Taylor & the Director (apologies if I have missed anyone)

2014 also looks like its going to be an exciting year as R Scuti has already returned to naked eye magnitude and we have also been treated to a supernova in Messier 82 which has become so bright it is easily discernible in binoculars. Hopefully, more fascinating variable star events are to come in the next 12 months.


David Scanlan, FRAS




Added by: Tracie Heywood