Monday, 14 March 2011

SXR208: Day 3

Day 3 - Binary Stars
The pressure steps up as today we do real projects, projects that are assessed. We started with a lunch/breakfast at Jaime's. A simple baguette of ham and cheese, but with salad and a fried egg in it - unexpected but yummy!

Today we're doing binary stars, trying to detect the presence of one star orbiting another. The weather looks foul, so I think we'll be working with archive data.
There was an initial talk scheduled, but a power cut at the site put pay to that for a while, but soon power was restored and we got going again.

We first had to have a planning meeting where our team decided on what star to look at from a list of candidates, what exposures and so on.

We first had to process the images, to subtract dark, bias and flats. Then we had to do some comparative photometry. Comparing the target star to a reference star to see if it changed in brightness. A couple of check stars were also included to check that the reference star wasn't varying too.
Luckily Maxim DL does a lot of the hard work for you here.

We then exported the collected data into excel and plotted a graph, and wow, it looked as though we had detected something.

There we have it - clear evidence of a periodic dip in brightness. We then had to go off and do protracted calculations to work out from this the period, and using some other data how massive the two stars were as a result. Pretty impressive stuff.
We then again went through the motions of setting up the telescope and taking the requisite basic images - as, like the tutor said, you need to be quick at doing this, because if you get clear skies tomorrow it will save you time to have practised.

We then finished off our data, and then met up at about 4:00am to discuss it with our tutor. Then home to the hotel and crash out until tomorrow.

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