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Central Arizona College

Superstition Mountain Campus

In 2001, while teaching astronomy and mathematics at the Superstition Mountain campus of Central Arizona College, Russell Genet organized, with the assistance of Cheryl Genet, a one-semester Astronomical Research Seminar. Nine students were formed into three teams and asked what research they would like to pursue. Several possibilities were considered as students talked to various astronomers via conference calls. All three teams chose to observe bright Cepheid variable stars using a robotic telescope at the Fairborn Observatory on Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona.

Astronomer Kenneth Kissell discussed the Cepheid project with the students during several conference calls and assisted them in selecting appropriate Cepheids for observation. Michael Seeds, the Principal Astronomer for the Phoenix-10 robotic telescope at the Fairborn Observatory, also spoke with the students by way of conference calls and helped them formulate their observational requests. Another astronomer, Douglas Hall of Vanderbilt University, aided the students in selecting appropriate comparison and check stars.

    The Phoenix-10 robotic telescope obtained the student-requested UBV observations of the selected Cepheids. Results became available toward the end of the semester. In several late-night sessions the students tabulated and plotted differential magnitudes as time series which, of course, appeared quite random. They then produced phase plots and, as if by magic, the Cepheid light curves appeared. They were most impressed!


One student, Clay Lapa, only 16 years old at the time, presented his results on T Vulpecula at the 200th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Cheryl Genet presented her results on U Aguila at the same meeting, while Russell Genet described the research seminar itself.

The following year (2002), the Genets moved to California's Central Coast (near San Luis Obispo) so Cheryl could be near her aging parents, and that was the end of the Astronomy Research Seminar at Central Arizona College.

Central Arizona College students pose with Seminar instructor Russ Genet
(upper right) during a late night data analysis session.

Students plot Cepheid variable star data with assistant Seminar instructor Cheryl Genet.

Cheryl, Clay, and Russ put up posters at the 200th meeting
of the American Astronomical Society in Albuquerque.

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