Monday, January 30, 2012

New Star Discoveries Found in Antique Telescope Plates

Date: 26 January 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET
Variable Star System DASCH J0757
This variable star system, called DASCH J0757, brightened by a factor of 4 at its peak, for mysterious reasons. It was discovered through the DASCH project to analyze old photographic plates that show how stars alter over a century. The top left shows the star system before its outburst, while the top right shows the system during the outburst. The variable star is marked with a green circle, while a neighboring constant star is marked in magenta. The lower panel shows the 100 year DASCH light curve of J0757.
CREDIT: DASCH/Tang/Grindlay
A century's worth of astronomical photographic plates have revealed a slew of new variable stars, many of which alter on timescales and in ways never before seen.
The discoveries come from a new analysis of the 500,000 plates made by the Harvard College Observatory from the 1880s through the 1980s, covering the whole sky. The trove of old-school data has offered astronomers an unprecedented look at how stars change over long timescales.
"The Harvard College observatory has the most wonderful, best collection [of photographic plates] in the world," said Harvard graduate student Sumin Tang, who works on the plate analysis program. "It's a very unique resource because it's over 100 years. No other data set could do this."



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