January 21, 2019

AstroEvent of the Week: January 19th-25th, 2009: Will EE Cephei Fade?

Variable star observing stands as a key area that amateur astronomers can still make a significant contribution. Either via imaging or visual observation, its fun to know that you are doing some of the grunt work of science and not just taking pretty pictures. This week’s event will require a telescope of at least 4″ aperture; it’s a rare dimming of the eclipsing variable EE Cephei.

Located in the constellation Cepheus, this 10th magnitude star has an exceptionally long period, measured in years (5.6, to be exact) instead of the usual days or weeks. Or is it a true eclipsing variable? Some discrepancies exist in its light curve; no two eclipses seem to be exactly the same! The dip is usually in the order of one or two magnitudes, and several have been seen in quick succession, suggesting that a bright gas torus might surround the parent star. Clicking through the above link will bring you to several good resources, as well as the all important AAVSO website, complete with finder charts. Just remember that “EE Cephei” translates into EE CEP when looking up data on their site. Giving a quick glance at the light curve, it seems as if the first one magnitude dip occurred earlier this month, so don’t delay!

This weeks’ Astro word of the week is Eclipsing Variable. One of several classes of variable stars, an eclipsing variable consists of a binary star system were an unseen companion orbits across our line of sight. When the two stars are aligned, a dip in their brightness is noted. The most famous of this class is the naked eye star Algol in Perseus, known as the “Demon Star” to the ancient Arabs. Keep an eye on this space for an expanded “How to observe variable stars post,” coming up here courtesy of Astroguyz!




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