Understanding Variable Stars

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Variable stars are those that change brightness. They come in many varieties, but each one provides important information about the star: its properties, its internal structure, and its evolution. This book provides a concise overview of variable stars, including a historical perspective, an introduction to stars in general, the techniques for discovering and studying variable stars, and a description of the main types of variable stars. Intended for anyone with some background knowledge of astronomy, it is especially suitable for undergraduate students and experienced amateur astronomers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Amateurs and academics with an interest in the subject of variable stars will perhaps come to regard this as a modern classic."
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

"Tightly written, and frequently interspersed with figures and graphs, the book contains and enormity of fact and discussion...a formost authority on Variable Stars...is a marvellous repository of information. As such it is an ideal textbook for a serious student, or a reference book for the amateur astronomer.: —Astronomy & Space

"If you want a comprehensive guide to the science of variable stars, you can't go wrong with a book written by John Percy, a world authority on variable star observation...as a guide to understanding modern variable star research, it's essential." —BBC Sky at Night

"It is certainly the most up-to-date readable description of the various types of variable stars and what is known about each...Basically, if you observe variable stars, you should read and probably own this book." —HTN of the AAVSO

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521232531
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/24/2007
  • Pages: 374
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

John R. Percy is Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He is the world authority on variable star observation and author of books on astronomy and science education (especially astronomy).

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Table of Contents

List of Boxes     x
List of Figures     xi
List of Tables     xvii
Preface     xviii
History and development     1
Tycho's and Kepler's stars     2
The beginnings of modern astronomy     3
Systematic visual observations     4
The photographic revolution     6
Spectroscopy     6
Classification and explanation     7
Photoelectric photometry: the electronic revolution     8
Consolidation     8
The modern age     9
Variable stars: the present status     12
Stars     14
Positions     14
Binary and multiple stars     15
Star clusters     17
Galaxies     18
Motions of the stars     21
Apparent magnitude     22
Distance     23
Absolute magnitude and luminosity     24
Stellar masses     25
Spectra     26
Colour     27
Temperature     28
Diameter     31
Composition     32
Rotation     33
Radial velocity     34
TheHertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram     36
Star structure     38
Star formation     39
Star evolution     43
Star death     45
Variable stars     48
Magnitude and Julian Date     49
Measurement of variable stars     50
Discovery and observation     55
Analysis of variable star data     61
Classification     71
Certification     74
Nomenclature     74
Bibliography     76
Rotating variable stars     81
The spotted sun     82
Sunlike stars     84
FK Comae stars     88
RS Canum Venaticorum stars     88
BY Draconis stars     91
Peculiar A (Ap) stars     92
Pulsars     96
Eclipsing variable stars     103
Overview     103
Ellipsoidal variable stars     106
Classification of eclipsing variables     107
Analysis of eclipsing variables     111
Detached eclipsing variables     118
Semi-detached binaries     121
W Ursae Majoris stars - contact binaries     122
Symbiotic binary systems     124
VV Cephei stars     126
X-ray binaries     128
The evolution of binary systems     132
Transiting exoplanets     133
Pulsating variable stars     136
Pulsation modes     136
Pulsation mechanisms     138
Modelling stellar pulsation     139
Non-linear effects     140
The instability strip(s)     141
Helioseismology: pulsations of the sun     145
Asteroseismology     145
Classical Cepheid variable stars     147
Population II Cepheids (W Virginis stars)     161
RV Tauri variables     167
RR Lyrae stars     173
Delta Scuti stars     182
Rapidly oscillating peculiar A (roAp) stars     190
Pulsating degenerate stars     192
Beta Cephei (Beta Canis Majoris) stars     195
Pulsating red giants (PRGs)     203
Red supergiant (SRc) variables     217
Eruptive variable stars     224
Flare stars     224
Cataclysmic variables     228
Supernovae     255
Gamma-ray bursters     270
Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN)      272
Pre-main-sequence variable stars     278
T Tauri stars     279
FU Orionis stars     289
Herbig-Haro objects     291
Herbig Ae and Be stars     291
Putting it all together     292
Miscellaneous variable stars     296
Be stars - Gamma Cassiopeiae variables     296
Wolf-Rayet stars     301
Hypergiant variable stars     304
R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars     312
Epilogue     319
Variable stars and astronomical research     319
Variable stars and amateur astronomy     320
Variable stars and science education     324
Variable stars and the general public     327
Acronyms     330
References     332
Resources     342
Index     344
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