Why Do Amateur Astronomers Observe Variable Stars

As with all amateur astronomers, you want to start seeing some results for your efforts as quickly as possible. You may have just spent a considerable amount of money for your new equipment and you want to start observing interesting things right now. Or you may have a pair of binoculars and wonder if there is anything happening up there, in the sky at night worthy of your attention. If you don't know where to look, the Universe can quickly seem like a rather boring place. Ironically, many would-be amateur astronomers give up very quickly because they cannot find anything interesting to view in a sky full of stars. A couple of nights under a star filled sky that doesn't seem to be doing anything and you'll believe that it's time to find a new hobby.

The Universe certainly is dynamic and ever-changing but most of the changes that take place occur on time-scales that exceed the life span of human beings ahd even the history of humankind. Watching a nebula expand or a star evolve will take millennia. On the other hand, trying to capture beautiful planetary nebulae, distant galaxies, planets within our own Solar System or the surface features of the Moon using astrophotogra-phy requires months, if not years, of effort to develop the necessary skills that will produce acceptable results. It is difficult to look out upon the Universe on any given night and see something happening. Without some help, you may give up, believing that there is nothing to see or that you lack the necessary time and skill to produce any results for your efforts.

This is where variable stars come to your rescue. As an amateur astronomer observing variable stars you will see immediate results from your labor. Cataclysmic variable stars explode within a few short hours, binary stars can eclipse one another several times a night and short-period variables change in brightness from evening to evening. These are events that you as an amateur astronomer can observe using binoculars or a telescope. More importantly, these are things that change quickly enough to give you some immediate satisfaction. Your binoculars will indeed show you something happening up there or the expense of a new telescope will seem justified after you actually witness the Universe change before your eyes. From night to night, there will be something new happening that you can see. In some cases, you will see change manifest itself over the span of several hours or, by creating light curves of these stars that vary, you will begin to see the nightly changes that you have been carefully recording for several weeks.

So, why do amateur astronomers observe variable stars? Amateur astronomers observe variable stars because they can see changes occur every night!

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