By David H. Levy
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Extra resources for David Levy's Guide to Variable Stars, 2nd Edition
If you see it drop one night to magnitude 3, look carefully at this star, 82 light years away, an example of the Universe working right before your eyes. 2 Beta Lyrae Beta Lyrae is an eclipsing binary bright enough to yield its light to the unaided eye or binoculars. Like Algol, this star does not really vary. 1. 91d; circle is 6◦ . 37 38 Algol, the demon of autumn slowly sliding in front of its brighter partner. One star just keeps getting in the other’s way, and your job is to ﬁnd out by how much and for how long.
This class might not be so important were it not for some prominent stars listed among its members: Spica, Alpha Lupi, and Beta Crucis. Finally, some stars have light variations which are accompanied by magnetic-ﬁeld changes. We call these magnetic variables, of which Alpha-2 Canum Venaticorum is a good example. 2 Mira stars Also known as long-period variables, Miras tend to be very slightly more massive than the Sun, but this mass is so spread out that were our Sun to be replaced with Mira, Mars would orbit just outside the star’s surface!
1 you recognize the Big Dipper, and near the top of the bowl is the circle-and-dot symbol for the variable star. Near other selected stars are numbers like 66, 54, and 64. These numbers represent magnitudes and tenths, but the decimal point is left out to avoid confusion with the other points that represent stars. 6” and so on. If you look at the area with binoculars, and are able to ﬁnd Z and see that it is easily visible, then you can use Fig. 1. 4? 4? 6? 4; we follow exactly the same procedure as we did for the earlier stars, but instead of using arbitrary numbers we now use magnitudes.