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Press Release

Public Lecture and Workshop on Variable stars : An International Year of Astronomy Project

"Kindle the taper like the steadfast star, Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth"

Said Emma Lazarus, American poet, when the 20th century was yet to dawn.

"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art", said Keats, in 1838.

Yes, at a first glance, stars do appear as very steady beacons and have so inspired creative spirits through the ages.

However, there are some stars, which are anything but steadfast. Their brightness varies!

With some bright variable stars, the brightness variations are so large that they would be detectable with the naked eyes and could have also been noticed by the ancient astronomers.

Algol or the demon star, is one such example, whose brightness variations were first noticed without the need of any instruments.

Pole star or Dhruva Tara is considered the byword for steadfastness - as it stays steady at one location through the night, unlike other stars which rise and set. Well, Pole star is not really all that steady. Its position in the sky might remain unchanged over small timescales, but, its brightness varies! Instruments would, however, be needed to detect these variations.

There is a relatively bright star, in the constellation of Auriga - a star known as Al Anz or Epsilon Aurigae which varies in brightness detectable to the naked eye - over very long time scales - over a period of 27 years! An eclipse of the star is thought to be the reason for these brightness changes. While such star eclipses are usually well understood - the brightness changes of Epsilon Aurigae have puzzled astronomers for nearly 200 years and a worldwide project of the International Year of Astronomy - known as Citizen Sky - is looking at this star and its variations, as an opportunity for educators to enthuse citizens about the science of the skies, and as an opportunity for citizens worldwide to contribute astronomical observations for science.

There will be a public lecture held at the Nehru Planetarium, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, at 5 PM, on the 22nd of September 2009, on "Variable stars and the intriguing Epsilon Aurigae". The lecture will be given by Prof. Tushar Prabhu, of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. This will be a part of the ongoing Godhooli series of public lectures being held at the Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi, as one of the International Year of Astronomy Activities.

The Public Lecture will be followed by a half day workshop to be held at the Planetarium, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, on the 5th of October. This workshop will be held as part of World Space Week activities by the Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi, in collaboration with the Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (S.P.A.C.E.). The workshop will train students and amateur astronomers towards making observations of the star Epsilon Aurigae using either just their eyes as instruments, or using digital SLR cameras and processing constellation images for a little serious science.

All interested students, amateur astronomers and in fact, all interested citizens are invited to attend the public lecture and the workshop, at the planetarium!

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Page last modified on September 17, 2009, at 07:46 AM EST