Astrophysics from Home: Monitoring a Variable Star

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Astrophysics from Home: Monitoring a Variable Star

stars in the sky

Do you want to help astrophysicists monitor how a variable star changes over time? Enter your email and click ‘observe’ to collect data! Every click will take a new image of the variable star TW Cap using the Las Cumbres Observatory, a global network of powerful telescopes.

Why do I have to enter my email?

By entering your email, we will be able to send you the data you collected (a picture of the star) and the location of the telescope that captured the image. We’ll also keep you updated on the project as other citizen scientists like you contribute. See Ingenium's Privacy Statement.


What is a variable star?

Most stars do not change their brightness, but some do; these are known as variable stars. Pulsating variable stars periodically grow and shrink in size, which changes their brightness. This is because a pulsating variable star is near the end of its life, when it begins to become unstable.

Why do we monitor variable stars?

For pulsating variable stars, the change in brightness tells scientists about the changes in size and shape of the star. This helps scientists measure properties of the stars like mass, size, luminosity, temperature, but also internal structure, composition, and evolution.

The time it takes for a variable star to go from maximum brightness to minimum brightness isn’t always the same, so scientists try to continually monitor these stars to look for changes. With the help of citizen scientists, like you, scientists get more data to help better understand why variable stars pulsate.

What star are we observing?

This project is monitoring the star TW Cap.

TW Cap is a variable star in the constellation Capricornus. The pulsation period is 28.585 days. It is a CWA-type variable (cepheid). These are short period variable stars, giants. It is 5 to 20x the mass of the sun.

What telescope will be doing the observation?

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is in partnership with the Las Cumbres Observatory, a global network of telescopes all around the world. One of their 40 cm telescopes will automatically observe the star each time you submit an observation request.

Connect with us on social media!

We need more citizen scientists like you! When you receive your data, share it with your friends and family on social media, and be sure to tag the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

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