Analysis Using Spreadsheets

Graphs will allow you to better visualize your variable-star data. When using a computer to analyze columns of numbers, important information can certainly be discovered, but occasionally, using different methods to visualize your data will reveal subtle or cryptic details. In some cases, visualizing your data using several different methods will suggest alternate approaches for meaningful investigation. In any case, using graphs as a tool for the analysis of your data will expand your ability to extract useful data from your observations.

A good way to begin the analysis of variable-star data, using a spreadsheet, is to import the data directly from your database. By using a database and the cut and paste capabilities of most software, you need only enter your data once, usually into the database. Then you can move large blocks of data into your spreadsheets.

I recommend that you keep the field names the same within the database and spreadsheet. It will save time and reduce confusion. In some cases, you will want to expand your spreadsheet to include columns of calculated data that you do not wish to include within your database. A good way to keep your spreadsheet clean and uncluttered is to prepare one or more sections: perhaps one section to allow you to import your database information, then a section separated by. a blank column in which you can perform your analysis calculations. Another section, slightly removed from the previous two, can be prepared to display your charts.

Remember, because your data is unevenly spaced, select your chart type carefully. Even a second or two, when analyzing fast variables such as RR Lyrae, Delta Scuti and eclipsing binaries, can produce a big effect on your analysis. Usually, an X-Y (scatter) chart is best used for the analysis of variable-star data because it displays uneven intervals, or clusters, of data. Usually, the time element is displayed along the X-axis and the brightness of the star (magnitude) is displayed along the Y-axis.

Experiment with displaying your data using slightly different methods and you may see how it produces different visual suggestions.

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