This is a group award which will allow approximately eight scientists, at four primarily undergraduate institutions, to continue to work on a series of problems requiring extensive photometric observations of stars without requiring time away from their teaching duties. Since the observations will be done remotely, undergraduate students will be able to participate directly in valuable astronomical research. This will be accomplished by the use of a 0.75-m telescope, at a remote location, which operates under computer control. This type of telescope, known as an Automatic Photometric Telescope or APT yields data that is as good or better than that obtained by most manual observers. Telescopes of this type are revolutionizing the observations of certain types of objects that require extensive, long-term, series of measurements. These objects have traditionally been neglected since most astronomers have not had the time or facilities required to go and observe them properly.
The schools involved in the Four College Consortium are The College of Charleston, The Citadel, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Villanova University. The projects to be carried out are those in which both science and non-science undergraduates and occasional high school students have been and will be involved. In the past three years various astronomical research projects at the four schools have involved at least twenty-two undergraduate students and three high school students. Some of the projects are solely dependent on the APT data. In other projects, the APT data provides crucial observational data that complements observations carried out on orbiting observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), as well as radio wavelength observations made with instruments such as the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.
The major long term monitoring projects usually involve studying stars on and near the stellar main sequence. Stars lying on the main sequence are those which are fusing hydrogen into helium in their central regions. These stars (the Sun is an example) are considered "normal" stars. The projects are often studies of "peculiar" properties of these "normal" stars. These "peculiar" properties are also found in the Sun but are enhanced in stars which are on the main sequence and are cooler than or hotter than the Sun. Specific projects to be carried out range from observations of hot, massive stars to those of cool, low mass stars. In order of decreasing mass these projects include:
o Mass Determination of Massive Binaries o Stellar Seismology of type A and B Stars (from the main sequence to supergiants) o Hot, Chemically Peculiar Stars with Strong Magnetic Fields o The Sun in Time Project: A Coordinated Optical APT, UV, and X-ray Study for stars similar to the Sun but of a different age. o Eclipsing Binary Stars as Astrophysical Laboratories o APT Observations of Very Young, Active Red Dwarfs o Search for Starspot Variability among Strong X-ray emitting Cool Stars
This project is funded by the Division of Astronomical Sciences. ***