Published on June 12th, 2012 | by James Johnson0
Amateur Astronomers Help Chart 42 Million Stars And Counting
Amateur astronomers have teamed up with a group of professionals to help map the location and characteristics of more than 42 million stars.
Astronomers focused their efforts on variable stars, a large and diverse class that can change in brightness over time. By gathering information such as mass, temperature and internal structure of variable stars Astronomers hope to learn more about the lives of stars.
The star mapping survey was thought up by the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), a nonprofit organization that began collecting star map data in 2009. The group plans to complete its entire international project by 2014.
To collect data the group uses two telescopes in New Mexico and Chili, gathering 8 million stellar detections per night. The large number of detections are necessary since variable stars changes so often and therefore require constant monitoring to collect proper timeline data.
According to Wired:
Knowing about variable stars is valuable to professional astronomers. Some variables expand over time, pulsating and stretching due to internal forces. Understanding them allows astronomers to figure out the dynamics of stellar interiors. Other variables dim when a companion star passes in from of them, eclipsing their light. These binary stars allow astronomers to calculate the mass and size of different stars.
The gathering of millions of data points through public data collection practices has caught on in recent years, a study of this magnitude would have taken far longer without the help of amateur astronomers.