From my roof to robotic telescopes: HOYS and AAVSOnet

By: Juan-Luis Gonzalez Carballo, Observadores de Supernovas (ObSN), AAVSO

I love astronomical observation. A love that is surpassed only by the variable stars and the transitory phenomena that occur in the sky. Shortly after beginning my first observations of the night sky with a small 114mm reflector, and bored by observing again and again the same objects that were within reach of that telescope, I discovered, almost by chance, that some stars changed brightness. I must have been 14 years old and found it somewhat surprising, almost science fiction. I looked for more information (an aspect that was previously very difficult in pre-Internet times) and soon I was already observing my first variable stars: δ Cep, ο Ceti (Mira), R Leonis, β Lyrae, etc.. The one that surprised me the most was R CrB. I loved those erratic and unexpected changes in brightness. Without a doubt it was a love at first sight.

Thirty years later, that love for variable stars is still intact and growing. Little by little my equipment was improving and a major change was the acquisition of my first CCD camera. The amount of objects that I could observe with it is wonderful: I would have worked for years! The precision of my measurements also improved a lot. Now I could increase my list of variable stars to follow. It was then that the first “serious” observation projects emerged. It turned out that my measurements could be useful for science. And they started some observation projects of what is now called Pro-Am (collaboration projects between professionals and amateurs). I can’t think of a more suggestive example of being able to contribute data for science, even if it’s on a small scale. My observations taken from my observatory can be part of scientific studies that, in some cases, materialise in scientific papers. Although I observe because I like it, without a doubt this Pro-Am collaboration is an incentive to motivate me to continue observing.

The HOYS initiative of Citizen Science seems to me one of the best projects in which the interests of amateurs and professionals find a link. For me, it will be a different and enriching initiative. Especially when, due to the adverse weather conditions at my observation site, I have requested observation time from the AAVSOnet initiative of the American Association of Variable Stars Observer’s robotic observatories. After making a detailed scientific proposal (exclusively for AAVSO members), it was evaluated by the AAVSOnet team and approved a few days later. Every few days I will receive images obtained from remote places. Once processed, they will be uploaded to the HOYS server so that useful data for science can be obtained. Amazing. I will focus on observing the Berkeley 86 open cluster, one of the HOYS summer targets. Located in the rich star fields of the Swan it offers a field full of stars to be investigated.

Thanks to Dr. Dirk Froebrich for this project and the AAVSO for making it possible. Don’t we have a wonderful hobby?