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A variable star that usually shows alternate deep and shallow minima, but sometimes - as in 2013 and in 2014 - decides to do something different!
R Scuti, located a degree north west of the Wild Duck cluster (Messier 11), is a variable star that can be relied on to produce a good amount of brightness changes, although attempts to predict the timing and depth of the next minimum often fail!
As can be seen from the above light curve, R Scuti doesn't always follow the 'alternate deep and shallow minima "rule" ' (although there was a "hint" of a very shallow dip in late June).
R Scuti is a yellow-orange supergiant star. The brightness changes are due to pulsations in the star's outer layers. The depth of the deep minima seems to vary from year to year - in some years they drop below mag 8.0 ; in others they don't even reach mag 7.0. There may even by a long term periodicity (about 30 years?) regarding this.
|Extreme brightness range||4.5- 8.6|
|More typical range||5.0 - 7.5|
|Period of variation||142 days (often including one deep and one shallow minimum)|
|Frequency of observation||Worth checking a couple of times per week - possibly every other day during deep minima|
|Observe using||40mm or 50mm binoculars will suffice for most of the time, but 50-80mm binoculars may be required during the deeper minima|
|Visibility||Can be observed from mid January to mid December, but is rather low in the morning sky until April|
Here are two finder chart that show the location of R Scuti. Both have north at the top.
The first shows its general location (Altair is a good starting point when using binoculars to locate R Scuti).
You can follow the brightness changes of R Scuti by comparing it with the lettered comparison stars on this second chart (which is approx 7 degrees by 4 degrees). At maximum, R Scuti will be easily the brightest of the stars in the small trapezium that also contains stars F, G and H. In deeper minima it can become fainter than comparison K.