Observing Programs

There are many ways to look at something and make conclusions about it. When doing astronomy research, you likely need to consider your own schedule and plans. How much time you have to do a project? What time of year do you want to gather images? What type of question do you have about the astronomical object that peaks your interest? For example, perhaps you want to learn if the maximum brightness of a Cepheid’s period ever increases.

For authentic research involving observations with small telescopes, four types of observing programs are feasible. The type of program to consider will depend on the available time and the level of commitment that is possible.

  1. One or a few images on a single night
  2. Many images on a single night
  3. A few images a night over several weeks or months
  4. Many images on multiple nights

Details for each of these programs are indicated below. These details include the types of target objects, the type of analysis required, and the scientific results that can be expected.

A. One or a few images on a single night

  1. Survey a short list of objects
    • CV (Cataclysmic Variable)
    • Mira
    • Supernova
    • Any known variable
  2. Identify target objects in image
  3. Determine magnitude and compare with previous observations
  4. Evaluate the feasibility of an observing project or target object

B. Many images on a single night

  1. Lightcurve for short period object (periods less than 1 day)
    • EW (W Uma type, contact binaries)
    • RR (RR Lyrae type, pulsating variable)
  2. Time of Minimum (ToM) or Time of Maximum (ToMx)
  3. Amplitude of the light variation
  4. Compare with theoretical predictions or previous observations
  5. Exoplanet transit light curve
    • Determine transit time (T) and transit duration (D)
    • Compare with predictions
    • Fit exoplanet model to your light curve
  6. Survey long list of objects

C. A few images a night over several weeks or months

  1. On-going survey of list of objects
    • Cepheids (DCEP type)
    • Type II Cepheids (CW type)
    • RV Tauri objects (RV type)
    • Interacting binary stars (mass transfer and accretion disks)
    • Long period eclipsing systems (EA, EB types)
  2. Determine ToM, ToMx, amplitude
    • Compare with predictions, expectations
    • Determine period
    • Search for period variation
    • Indications of evolution
    • Interaction effects
    • Unseen objects
  3. Lightcurve for long period object (periods greater than a few days)

D) Many images on multiple nights

  1. Time variability of the light curve
  2. Detailed light curve for long period objects
  3. Multiple ToMs, ToMxs to search for variable periods
  4. Fourier analysis of light curve
  5. Solution of eclipsing binary light curve for physical parameters