Amateurs Help Astronomers Unravel A Propeller Star

Aug 26, 2005

Amateur astronomers are being asked to help a constellation of observatories unravel the mysteries of a puzzling binary star system.

On August 30-August 31, 2005 two space-based and four professional ground-based observatories are scheduled to observe the cataclysmic variable star AE Aqr. Each of the observatories covers a different wavelength of light and amateur astronomers have been asked to help cover the visible-light portion.

"This observing campaign will take place over nearly a full day, and since no single ground-based observatory can observe AE Aqr for that long due to Earth's rotation, amateur astronomers can make a unique and invaluable contribution to this campaign," said Dr. Christopher Mauche of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the principal investigator of the project.

Because they are spaced all across the globe, amateur astronomers can observe this star and other celestial objects unhindered by nightfall or weather.

The Chandra and GALEX space telescopes will be working with the HESS, MAGIC, VLT, and VLA ground-based telescopes. Combined, they will provide coverage of AE Aqr from high-energy gamma-rays to low-energy radio waves.

Such simultaneous multiwavelength coverage is required to provide the clearest picture of the locations, mass motions, energetics, and inter-relationships of the various emission regions in the star.

AE Aqr is an intermediate polar, a type of cataclysmic variable star. It actually consists of two stars - a red dwarf and rapidly spinning magnetic white dwarf.

Material drawn off the red dwarf falls toward the white dwarf, but instead of landing on the white dwarf surface, it is flung out of the system by the white dwarf's rapidly spinning magnetic field. This mechanism, which is uncommon but not unique to AE Aqr, is referred to as a magnetic propeller.

"Amateurs astronomers have been observing AE Aqr since 1944. Since then, they have recorded over 28,815 measurements of the star, most of them made with just a telescope and their eyes. This type of historical data is immensely valuable in studying variable stars and only amateurs can provide it," Dr. Arne Henden, Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), said.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Bright points in Sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

18 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

18 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

19 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...