AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Binary Adventures

AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Binary Adventures

Variable stars come in many forms – there are happy little regular stars, widely separated and merrily circling ones dancing an eon long dance. Some white dwarfs – dead stars, cooling into stellar embers of stars – become vampires as they gravitationally suck mass from their companion and heat themselves back out of the stellar grave. There are stars with touching atmospheres that are merging, spiraling, reheating in a marriage of materials, and stars where one covers the other in a layer of stellar soot as it exhales its spoke thin atmosphere as it sighs at its planetary nebula fate. Binary stars form beautiful, dynamic systems that provide astronomers some of their most necessary data (masses can only be measured in binary systems) and some of...

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AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Paula and Pulsating White Dwarfs

AAVSO/BAA Day 1: Paula and Pulsating White Dwarfs

After several days of travel, I’ve settled into the front row of the BAA/AAVSO meeting in New Hall, in Cambridge, UK. Dr. Paula Skody is giving an excellent talk on pro-am collaboration to make Hubble Space Telescope observations of cataclysmic variables. She studies pulsating white dwarfs – stars whose outer 99% have oscillations that can be seen as high speed, slight changes in brightness. The most interesting of these pulsating stars are in binary systems and are gravitationally stripping mass from their companions. This process changes the mass, temeperature, and composition of the white dwarf, and it is possible to observe how the star’s pulsations change as their mass, temp, and composition change. WhiteDwarf.org has movies of these stars....

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Friday Night Meet up :-)

Just a reminder, I will be at Castle Pub, on Castle Hill in Cambridge, UK on Friday at 6pm.

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A Sunny Morning in Oxford

A Sunny Morning in Oxford

I awoke to the following this morning. I now understand why every faculty member I’ve ever had who went to Oxford complains about the ugliness of their current university (any one of many). Really, can anything in the states compete? They also have quite civilized dorms, with a proper tea set laid out with biscuits. And strange objects are also left on lamp posts. Walking to the building Chris works in he spotted on a lamp post an envelope labeled “Take Me” so he took it. Inside was a CD or DVD labeled “Take Me / Watch Me.” We want to find a computer no body likes to watch it, but thus far said hated computer has yet to be found. At 2pm I’ll be giving a talk on the IYA New Media programs. This morning I attended a coffee talk...

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Out of Munich and into England

Out of Munich and into England

After giving a 2pm talk yesterday, I was off and running for the airport and quick flight to London. To say that I am a laid back traveler is probably an understatement, and to say I vaguely plan things ahead and then forget to print out useful emails is perhaps more accurate (but then, I always have my laptop, so why kill trees?). I tend to travel light, plan minimally, and always be prepared for stupidity. My “one bag, one laptop bag, live anything I probably don’t need at home” approach worked for me on the way to London, as I opted to take my luggage as a carryon (along with everyone else – no one wanted to check luggage through Heathrow 5!). Arriving in Oxford, where no one was even sitty in the “nothing to declare” room,...

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