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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2011

2 - A need for observers

from PART I - PIONEERS IN VARIABLE STAR ASTRONOMY PRIOR TO 1909

Summary

Those who have not tried it do not realize the growing interest in a systematic research and the satisfaction in feeling that by one's own labors the sum of human knowledge has been increased.

– Edward C. Pickering, 1882

Variable star astronomy developed on the European continent, largely through the efforts of professional astronomers at observatories, while amateurs contributed in Great Britain. In the United States, variable star astronomy emerged with a mix of professionals and amateurs in a more complicated manner.

Initially, amateurs in the United States embraced variable star observing as a specialty and developed skills and programs that were consistent with good astronomical practice at that time. Many individuals were drawn into variable star observing through the appeals of Benjamin A. Gould and Friedrich W. A. Argelander in Gould's Astronomical Journal (AJ) and the work of Edward C. Pickering at the Harvard College Observatory (HCO).

In the first part of this chapter, we examine the impetus for variable star observing through some of its leading exponents. The second part deals with their concerns for accuracy and verification. The last part deals with the establishment of publications, organizations, and the evolution of standardized observing procedures.

APPEALS FOR OBSERVERS

American astronomer Gould returned from Europe with several astronomical agendas, particularly the promotion of variable star astronomy following the urgings of his German mentor Argelander (see Chapter 1). Gould encouraged his readers to observe variable stars in his Astronomical Journal and through personal communications.

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