Research is loosely organised into projects (established by project leaders, frequently with specific timeframes or goals) and programmes (established by programme coordinators, with ongoing goals and which may have related projects to investigate specific objectives).

Here’s the list of VSS research projects. Find a project that suits your interests, equipment and situation, and contact its project leader to find out about joining in.  You will need to register on this website (for free) in order to be able to access some of the project areas.

  • Beginner’s Visual Observing Project :
    As most readers will know, a visual observing project suitable for beginners and experienced people alike studying R Car and eta Car has begun. We have sufficient numbers, but more observers will generate a better study. Anyone who has not thought about participating, please do. We want you. As well as our own observations, we will add historical data into the AAVSO database to extend the lightcurves of the two stars backwards in time as well as forwards, and then examine the data for any insights into the objects.
  • BL Tel Project :
    Visual observers are invited to participate in monitoring of BL Tel for which observations are required. BL Tel was the subject of a long-term visual study between 1983 and 2000 with the recording of 8 eclipses during that time. Results of those eclipses are summarised in Publications 25 (C99) of the VSS RASNZ (2000). BL Tel is an Algol type system of period near 778 days and visual range between magnitudes 7 and 10. Eclipses are of duration up to 2 months.
  • Bright Southern Cepheids for DSLR & Similar Cameras :
    This project is the second stage of the Bright Cepheid project. It makes use of the advantages of standard DSLR cameras: wide fields and the ability to make measures in three colour bands simultaneously. It is limited by the camera's sensitivity which appears to be about magnitude 8 with exposures of 20-30 seconds. But this still allows about 80 targets south of the equator. A list of all such objects can be found at Southern Cepheids to Magnitude 8. This is divided into several categories: low amplitude; long period (>10.0 days) which are mostly large amplitude objects with frequent period changes; and assorted Cepheids which are neither of these types. Previously many of these objects had been monitored by the ASAS project but this appears to have ceased around 2008 so that there is now no ongoing observational study of these stars. We plan to fill this need.
  • Dual-Maxima Miras :
    Determining the colour changes and light curves for a complete cycle of selected Mira and Semi-Regular stars which show two discrete maxima during each cycle. Other similar stars with distinct and regular bumps on the light curves may be included.
  • Eclipsing Binaries – Insight into Stellar Evolution :
    Many binaries are too close to separate optically offer other crucial astrophysical insights, including stellar evolution. This is because many of them are close enough to each other to interact in various ways (the close binaries) and, if their orbital planes are close to our line of sight, we can obtain revealing eclipse phenomena. These eclipsers are the object of our studies.
  • Eta Carinae Photometric Campaign: 2019+2021 :
    Eta Carinae is now so bright that its 400-year long history of photometry risks being interrupted. Ironically, this could happen in a phase when we finally can see the central stars almost un-obscured. Very few CCD observers today are able to continue this historical monitoring since the star saturates with 1 sec exposure time even using small aperture telescopes. Continued visual estimations are strongly encouraged to monitor long term trends; however Augusto Damineli and other professional astronomers also require precision photometry data for their models.
  • QZ Carinae :
    One of the most difficult observing targets in our galaxy is QZ Carinae, a massive EB system. It comprises four stars arranged in two pairs: an eclipsing secondary pair with a period of 5.99875 days and a non-eclipsing primary pair with a period of 20.74 days. Masses are 16.7 and 28.0, and ~40.0 and ~9.0 respectively. Separation of the two pairs is about 50 AU and the absolute luminosity about -7.5. Its almost naked eye at 2500 parsecs!
  • R & eta Carinae :
    John Tebbutt observed the luminous blue variable Eta Carinae (then Eta Argus) and the long period variable R Carinae through the late 19th century. These observations, with their comparison stars, were published in a series of MNRAS papers and they have not yet been entered into the AAVSO international database. Entering this data into the database will make it widely available for study.
  • V0454 Carinae spectroscopic and photometric campaign :
    Ed and Roger are requesting assistance from spectroscopists in VSS to help determine the details of the V0454 Carinae system. Ideally they are looking for one spectrum per night for about a fortnight. This is because the short term variations of the non-close-binary lines suggest a period on that order. Photometry data is also required.
  • V0745 Sco Campaign :
    Rod Stubbings reports the recurrent nova V745 Scorpii is in outburst at magnitude 9.0V. Only two previous eruptions are known, one in 1937 and another in 1989. A comprehensive history of this and all other known recurrent novae can be found in Comprehensive Photometric Histories of All Known Galactic Recurrent Novae by Schaefer, Bradley E. 2010ApJS..187..275S. Time series observations of this rare event are highly encouraged.

And if you’d like to propose a project of your own (with you as leader!) please contact the Director.

A number of projects that have now been completed or archived are listed below.

  • Equatorial Eclipsing Binaries Project :
    The EEB Project, which is joint with the Variable Star Section of the British Astronomical Association, aims to provide new or updated light elements (orbital period and one well-determined time of primary eclipse) of variable stars classified as EA in the GCVS4. Where possible, it also aims to provide orbital, classification and shape data for the stars. The target stars are located in a band within 10° declination of the celestial equator, to enable collaborative northern hemisphere research. All results are to be published in suitable journals, with observers' data and summary reports on progress published on this website.
  • Southern Binaries DSLR Project :
    The targets will be bright, relatively under-observed, or newly discovered, southern binaries. They will mostly be eclipsing binaries but others may be close binaries with possible photometric effects of binarity but not eclipses. A secondary aim of the SBDSLR Project is to establish DSLR photometry as a legitimate technique for scientific studies of variable stars. Due to their brightness our targets will generally be unsuited to the narrow field of view of CCD imaging through a telescope. DSLR cameras with standard lenses provide fields of view wide enough to include suitable comparison stars.
  • Southern Eclipsing Binaries – EA Project :
    The Southern EAs Project of Variable Stars South is a multi-purpose and ongoing campaign to observe and analyse bright eclipsing binary stars of the EA-type (Algol-like) accessible to Southern Hemisphere observers. The Project is designed to enable anyone with a tracking telescope and a camera, or familiarity with Excel, to take part. Full guidelines on observing and analysing are available.
  • Southern Eclipsing Binaries – EB and EW Project :
    An ongoing research project on contact and near-contact binaries for DSLR and CCD equipment.
  • U Scorpii Campaign :
    U Sco is a top priority target while it is still bright. CCD time series observations are especially important. Send to AAVSO and CBA. VSS members please send all observations to [email protected] for inclusion in our analyses, data tables and plots. See Brad Schaefer's email below, and VSS data submission guidelines here. Keep abreast of developments in the frequently updated news item on U Sco.