Professional and Amateur Collaboration

Amateur astronomers and the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) have done it again. This time AAVSO observers were able to provide timely observations to alert UK radio astronomers of the early stages of an outburst of SS Cygni. The results, the first ever detection of a radio jet from a dwarf nova, have been published in the journal Science. The pre-print of the paper can be downloaded from

What I found most intriguing about this paper is that the jets they were looking for were transient phenomena that only occur at a certain stage of the outburst (onset). The astronomers predicted that the jets would exist, and at which stage of the outburst they would be detectable _before_ observing them. This brought to mind a comment Joe Patterson made in an interview for CVnet we did a couple years ago. "The dwarf-nova outburst itself has become generally well understood -- in the sense that there's a theory which successfully reproduces the observed phenomena. But it's noteworthy that all of that theory was crafted to fit previously known data -- it has never actually predicted something not known in advance."

Congratulations to Dr. Elmar Koerding and his team for their discovery, and kudos to the amateur variable star observers all over the world who made this observation possible. There is a very nice optical and radio light curve of the outburst on page 6 of the paper. Multi-million dollar radio telescope observations coupled with visual observations from backyard telescopes, the very definition of pro-am collaboration.

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