Observing Double Stars
Double stars have been systematically observed since William Herschel initiated his program in 1779. In 1803 he
reported that, to his surprise, many of the systems he had been observing for a quarter century were gravitationally
bound binary stars. In 1830 the first binary orbital solution was obtained, leading eventually to the determination of stellar masses. Double star observations have been a prolific field, with observations and discoveries—often made by students and amateurs—routinely published in a number of specialized journals such as the Journal of Double Star Observations. All published double star observations from Herschel’s to the present have
been incorporated in the Washington Double Star Catalog. In addition to reviewing the history of visual double stars, we discuss four observational technologies and illustrate these with our own observational results from both California and Hawaii on telescopes ranging from small SCTs to the 2-meter Faulkes Telescope North on Haleakala. Two of these technologies are visual observations aimed primarily at published “hands-on” student science education, and CCD observations of both bright and very faint doubles. The other two are recent technologies that have launched a double star renaissance. These are lucky imaging and speckle interferometry, both of which can use electron-multiplying CCD cameras to allow short (30 ms or less) exposures that are read out at high speed with very low noise. Analysis of thousands of high speed exposures allows normal seeing limitations to be overcome so very close doubles can be accurately measured.
Type of Publication
Genet, Russell M. | Fulton, Benjamin J. | Bianco, Federica B. | Martinez, John J. | Baxter, John H. | Brewer, Mark | Carro, Joseph | Collins, Sarah | Estrada, Chris | Johnson, Jolyon | Salam, Akash | Wallen, Vera | Warren, Naomi | Smith, Thomas C. | Armstrong, James D. | McGaughey, Steve | Pye, John | Mohanan, Kakkala | Church, Rebecca
Warner, Brian D. | Buchheim, Robert K. | Foote, Jerry L. | Mais, Dale
California Polytechnic State University | Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope | Cuesta Community College | Dark Ridge Observatory | University of Hawaii | Haleakala Amateur Astronomers | Leeward Community College
The Society for Astronomical Sciences 31st Annual Symposium on Telescope Science, held May 22-24, 2012 at Big Bear Lake, CA.
Society for Astronomical Sciences
Conference Proceeding Type
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America