Citizen Sky

Citizen Sky

Since the early 19th century, astronomers have observed this extremely long-period eclipsing binary located in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer. In 1928, astronomer  Harlow Shapley correctly concluded that the two stars were about equal in mass. Based on this information they should be about equal in brightness as well. But the spectrum of the system showed no light from the companion at all. The visibly bright first star (called the primary) was being eclipsed by a massive, invisible second star (called the secondary).

Epsilon Aurigae is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye even in the most light-polluted cities, and it is visible every fall, winter and spring. The change in brightness that this star undergoes is called an eclipse (a process of fading and coming back to its usual brightness).

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arne Henden, Project Principal Investigator
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: American Association of Variable Star Observers
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Contact the Citizen Sky project.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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