Citizen Sky project and now you’re getting hooked on variable stars. Hey, it happens; you are not alone. But epsilon Aurigae is in full eclipse now, and will remain faint for most of this year, so maybe you’re ready for some new stars to satisfy your new addiction.
Perhaps you already owned a telescope or you finally got that shiny new 8” Schmidt-Cassegrain you’ve had your eye on for Christmas. Now where do you look for interesting variables? I’ve got some suggestions for you. These are fun stars to observe, AAVSO still needs observations of these stars, and best of all, they are easy to find and identify, so you won’t spend cold winter nights looking for them. You can spend your time observing them instead!
R Aur- After you make your observation of epsilon Aurigae for the night, (because you should keep observing it all the way to the end of the epsilon Aur campaign!) use your telescope and finder to star hop over to this great long period variable. I think of this one as the ‘Pirate Star’, because its name is “Arr, Arr!”
There are plenty of magnitude 6 to 9 stars in the area to help point the way, making this one easy to find. Varying from 6.9-13.9V, it also happens to be an interesting double star! R Aur is on the rise from minimum right now, so it will get easier as winter turns to spring.
R Cas- This Mira gets as bright as 4.7, and can fade to 13.5. R Cas is currently on the rise from around 10th magnitude so it will be easy to observe all winter.
T Cas- When at or near maximum, this is one of the reddest stars you’ll ever see in the eyepiece. This Mira varies from 6.9-13.0V and has a very interesting light curve with multiple humps, perhaps indicating multiple periods. Currently around 9th magnitude, but is it rising or fading? Have fun following this one!
T Cas has humps like a camel in its light curve. What's up with that?V Cas- This Mira has a pretty regular period of 228 days. Ranging from 6.9-13.4, V Cas is currently at minimum, so it will become easier to observe as winter progresses and it brightens.
S Per- Sitting in a beautiful star field with plenty of 8th and 9th magnitude stars to point the way, this interesting semi-regular variable, varying from 7.9-12V, is somewhat unpredictable, so you never know what it will be doing next time you observe it.
W Tau- Located in the Hyades, just west of Aldebaran is a bright double star consisting of theta 1 and theta 2 Tau. In the same medium power field of view is W Tau, a semi-regular variable that ranges from 8.2-13.0V. The period is listed as approximately 165 days, but this star is unpredictable, and the light curve for the last 1200 days is chaotic. This, plus the fact it is easy to find and observe, makes W Tauri a fine catch on a cold winter night.
W Tau is close to a beautiful double star in the Hyades cluster. You gotta be able to find this one!
There you go; a half dozen stars to add to your variable star program. If you’re looking for more you can check out the Stars Easy to Observe list on the AAVSO website at http://www.aavso.org/easy-stars
If you run into trouble, or just want some friendly advice from an experienced observer, contact me at mikesimonsen at aavso dot org. I coordinate the AAVSO Mentor Program and I can hook you up with one of our great mentors to help give you a boost up the learning curve.