Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star  
Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger (JPL), the WFPC2 science team, and NASA
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Welcome to IYA!

The United States IYA Program Committee has created a Research Experiences for Students, Teachers and Citizen Science working group to design IYA activities around citizen science and pro-am collaboration. If you would like to participate, submit ideas or have questions email and it will be directed to the working group.

This IYA 2009 working group’s main project is a multi-year effort involving variable stars. The project will begin with training programs of several types of binary and transient variable stars that are easy to observe from suburban locations with the naked eye. Eventually it will lead to a capstone project: monitoring the rare and mysterious 2009-2010 eclipse of Epsilon Aurigae. In the summer of IYA 2009, third-magnitude Eps Aur will experience its next eclipse, which occurs every 27.1 years and lasts 714 days, nearly two years! Projects will be developed for three audiences: amateurs, the general public and educators. Planning is still underway; advice and offers to help are welcome.

Other projects are also being considered. Please send us ideas or offers to help. No project idea is too small. It can be something as small as having a research symposium at your local club.

If you are a professional astronomer and have a project you need help on (either through observing, data mining, E/PO, etc.) please contact us. Perhaps we can create an IYA project tailored for your needs.

July, 2008 Update: Click here for a PDF describing our Eps Aur plans presented at the June, 2008 AAS meeting. A proposal has been submitted to NSF to fund this project for three years. We expect to hear a result in October, 2009. In the meantime, we are developing our Ten Star Training Program and other tutorials throughout the summer while also looking for other funding opportunities. We need a minimum of $20,000 to get the project started with a public/amateur citizen science workshop at the Adler Planetarium in the summer of 2009. Any ideas are appreciated!

More info will be placed here in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Our vision statement:

Among the many opportunities for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy is the chance to engage the public in authentic scientific research. The eclipsing binary star Epsilon Aurigae is a bright star that is easily seen with the unaided eye, even in light polluted areas. 2009 marks the beginning of a rare phase of activity in this star that has not been seen in over a quarter of a century and is as yet unexplained by scientists. Our goal is to allow anyone to participate in both the process of data collection and analysis to help unravel the mysteries of this star while increasing scientific understanding and excitement.

ASP Meeting

The working group is currently applying for funding from a variety of agencies to support the Eps Aur campaign. They will  meet at the May-June, 2008 AAS/ASP meeting in Seattle to work out a roadmap for the rest of 2008. A key feature of the road map is to produce a “ten star training program” that observers can follow to learn how to observe variable stars, report the data and perform basic data analysis on the collective data set. Also, funding has been requested for a public workshop on Eps Aur to be held late in 2008. We expect to hear back on that funding request in early summer.