Double Star Astrometry Research Seminar
Cuesta College Fall 2018
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Research Supervisors:
Dr. Russell Genet,, (805) 438-3305
Rachel Freed,, (707) 326-8310

Canvas Learning Management System Coordinator:
Dr. Cheryl Genet,, (805) 438-4088

Required Text: Small Telescope and Astronomical Research (STAR) Handbook


Astrometry (not to be confused with astronomy) is the “branch of astronomy concerned with the measurement of the positions and apparent motions of celestial objects in the sky and the factors that can affect them” (Cambridge Dictionary of Astronomy, J. Mitton 2001). Whether it is observationally determining the position angles and separations of close double stars (which may be binary stars orbiting about a common center-of-gravity), or the positions of fast-moving asteroids with respect to fixed background stars, determining the positions of objects—astrometry—is a fundamental task of observational astronomy and makes an ideal entry point into the world of astronomical research. 


In this Institute for Student Astronomical Research (InStAR) Seminar, Double Star Astrometry, researchers will use a remote robotic telescope to obtain observations of a close double star that might be gravitationally bound. Based on their observations, each research team will determine the position angle and separation distances between the two components of the double star. Analysis will, hopefully, suggest whether or not the components are gravitationally bound binaries, common proper motion pairs born near each other, or just chance optical doubles that appear close together but are actually far apart. Each team will then write, revise, and submit a manuscript for publication in the Journal of Double Star Observations, and summarize their research results in an online PowerPoint presentation.


This InStAR Research Seminar is totally online and features weekly, synchronous staff meetings (Zoom online conferencing) every Wednesday evening between the research supervisors and the research teams. The Seminar’s textbook, the 217-page Small Telescope Astronomical Research Handbookwas specifically written for the Astronomy Research Seminars, and is included as part of the registration (choice of e-book, softcover, or hardcover). Detailed seminar instructions, videos, reference material, quizzes, etc., are all contained in the easy-to-use, totally online Canvas Learning Management System.  


There are no prerequisites or advanced knowledge required for this Research Seminar. There are always enough diverse talents on the teams that by working together (with generous outside support) the research teams can complete the research in the allotted time. Please note that in the past, approximately half of the teams have been high school teams and they completed their research projects in a timely manner. Also note that a diversity of talents makes teams work well. Researchers who have no knowledge of astronomy and are not keen on mathematics or spreadsheets but have writing or editing skills are especially valuable.  ​​