How to Estimate the Age (and Distance) of an Open Cluster with Amateur Equipment

How to Estimate the Age (and Distance) of an Open Cluster with Amateur Equipment

Star clusters are objects of great interest to astronomers. The stars in a given open or globular cluster are considered to have been created at the same time from material of the same composition. The stars in a cluster are about the same distance from Earth. This means that any differences in brightness are not due to differences in distance but are due to intrinsic differences in luminosity. These characteristics make it possible to get accurate estimates of age and distance. I set out to see if I could get good estimates for M67 with amateur equipment. M67 is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer. Surprisingly, I was able to get pretty close to accepted values.

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Creating a Video of RR Lyrae Variables in M3

Creating a Video of RR Lyrae Variables in M3

Globular Cluster M3 looks almost as stunning as M13 when viewed through a small telescope. You can’t see any color through the eyepiece, but properly exposed and processed photos show many light blue stars. Over 200 of these stars are variable stars of the type called RR Lyrae variables. These stars are very interesting because they have about the same average luminosity and there are two main types with periods averaging about 8 hours and 13 hours. This means that one can capture nearly a full period in one night’s observations.

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High-School Students Capture Exoplanet Transit with Ken Hose

High-School Students Capture Exoplanet Transit with Ken Hose

I love working on astronomy projects with students. On October 10 we had a clear night and I had 2 high school students over to capture an exoplanet transit. There were a few possible known transits that night and we chose to image Kepler-17 b which was discovered in 2011 by the Kepler Mission. The students were doing this as a school project. I have an observatory with a 12.5” telescope and a CCD camera that the students used.

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