2010 programme

Fri 13:30-16:30

Variable Star Data Visualisation and Analysis with VStar

David Benn

Astronomical Society of South Australia, American Association of Variable Star Observers

VStar is a free, open source, easy-to-use variable star data visualisation and analysis tool being developed in conjunction with the American Association of Variable Star Observers.

VStar can source observations from the AAVSO International Database and from files in two formats. Light curves over a specified JD range can be displayed, showing some or all of the recorded bands. Mean curves can be plotted with respect to a particular band. Given a period and an epoch, phase plots can be displayed. Data can also be viewed in tabular format.

In the near future, period analysis functionality will be added along with a plugin architecture to permit user-defined algorithms. Although the initial context for VStar's use is the Citizen Sky project and the variable star Epsilon Aurigae, now undergoing eclipse, the tool's functionality is applicable to variable star observation analysis outside of this context. The workshop will allow participants to gain experience with VStar using data sets from the AAVSO database, and also to have input into future development and improvement of the tool. More information about VStar and Citizen Sky can be obtained here:


Workshop participants will use VStar to:

o Load observational data for variable stars from files and from the AAVSO International Database.
o View light curves, selecting bands to be displayed, magnifying portions of the plot.
o View individual observation details by clicking on plotted data points.
o View plotted data in tabular format.
o Create phase plots by specifying different period and epoch values.
o View and modify mean light curves and phase plots based upon a "bin" size and specified band.
o Understand the meaning of error bars in VStar's different plot views.
o Identify potentially "discrepant" observations and how excluding them affects mean curves.
o Save and print plots and tabular data.
o Understand VStar's observation data file formats and how to create personal observation files.
o Perform period searches (this functionality is currently under development; more details will be available soon).

The workshop is also intended to be a collaboration between expert variable star observers, other interested parties, and myself, as the lead developer of VStar. The best software is shaped by the people who use it. The intention is that workshop participants will not only come away with a desire to use VStar, but also to make suggestions for improvement.

Attendee requirements: 
Any computer with the Java Runtime Environment 1.5 or higher installed.