"Scientific" Projects for Amateur Astronomers

The first RIT Observatory Public Night of the spring will be Friday, March 11, at 6:30 PM.

This is by no means an exhaustive list!

Variable Stars

The Center for Backyard Astrophysics
The CBA organizes professional and amateur astronomers around the world in campaigns to monitor a few interesting stars intensively. Many of their targets are cataclysmic variables which, in outburst, can undergo strong variations (0.05 to 0.25 mag) over short periods (several hours).

The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
The AAVSO collects measurements of variable stars from visual, photoelectric, and CCD observers. Like the CBA, they organize campaigns on very interesting targets.

The AAVSO Eclipsing Binaries Group
This group concentrates on one particular type of variable star: eclipsing binaries. Some projects require several full nights of work, others (Times of Minima) less than an hour of (very carefully selected) measurements.

TA/BAAVSS list of Recurrent Objects
These objects are usually faint and boring, but every now and then produce a bright outburst. By comparing new images to charts, you can see immediately if an outburst has started, and inform others to watch it intensively.

AAVSO list of objects which have Significant or Noteworthy Outbursts
Again, the goal is to monitor these stars so that we don't miss the next big outburst.

The Solar System

The Minor Planet Center
The MPC serves as the central repository of information on the orbits of minor planets (and comets). It is difficult to discover a new asteroid, but very easy to make important contributions to the orbital elements of certain asteroids.

NASA's Near Earth Object Program
NEOs are a subset of asteroids which happen to fly past the Earth at relatively small distances. They are often visible for only a few days before they move so far away that they fade into invisibility .... and while they are visible, they move through the sky very quickly.

The Collaborative Asteroid Lightcurve Link
CALL members collect photometric measurements of asteroids, rather than astrometric ones. The light curve of an asteroid can tell us a bit about its physical properties.

Occultations of stars by asteroids
Occultations of relatively bright stars by asteroids happen more frequently than you might think. We can use them to measure the sizes and orbits of asteroids precisely, if we have careful measurements by several observers.

Parallax measurements of asteroids
They won't make a significant difference in the orbits of asteroids, but they can be fun and instructive.

Observing the MAJOR planets
Several of the major planets are big enough to show significant detail even in small telescopes, enough that amateurs can help monitor their weather.

Reference sources