Suggesting activities for the isolation period

The ongoing pandemic of Covid-19 has postponed or cancelled almost any kind of activity. As a result the majority of people (and not only in Greece) is staying at home and internet is serving as the main means of entertainment, education, and work. Although we certainly held regular meetings in person for both our members and the general public, we have been active in many other ways that can offer getaways during this period.

In this post we have gathered a few items that you may find interesting to check. Our mission is to popularize Observational Astronomy and the scientific contribution to Astronomy, through a wide range of activities. As we target the Greek community most of our content is, naturally, in Greek. Our English site (still under development) contains information regarding our activities that would be potentially beneficial to the global community, such as our publications.


Citizen Science projects

We have created a dedicated page to collect and highlight all (possible) Citizen Science projects related directly to Astronomy. This way you can start contributing to Science from the convenience of your home.

Observational Projects

We are working on a number of projects, such as exoplanets, variable stars, planets, meteor, etc (see Research and Working Groups for more details). Currently there are two major ongoing projects: the EE Cephei eclipse, and the latest Venus elongation.

EE Cep light curve 2014
The light curve of EE Cep during the 2014 eclipse.

YouTube

Although our YouTube‘s content is mainly in Greek (again), you can still find some interesting videos from our activities and some talks in English.

A summary of the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association’s activities to develop new contributors to the science of Astronomy.

And take a look also at our videos on our site!

For our members and more

We plan to organize a series of online workshops and talks for our members and the public in general (which will be available in Greek). The schedule is not set yet, but we will provide an overview of our activities.




Contributing to the EE Cep campaign

Introduction

EE Cephei (R.A.: 22 09 22.757, Dec.: +55 45 24.184, J2000.0) is a variable star of spectral type Be5 III (Mikolajewski & Graczyk 1999, Mikolajewski et al. 2005), with a period of 2050 days (approximately 5.6 years; Meinunger 1976), and an eclipse duration of about 40 days.

Its variability was detected in 1952 (Romano 1956) and soon it was identified as an eclipsing binary system (Romano & Perissinotto 1966). Up to date we have observed a total of 12 eclipses which however present large differences in their duration and depth (see Fig. 1). Mikolajewski & Graczyk (1999) suggested the presence of an opaque disk surrounding the secondary, which is either a low-mass star or a close binary system. A tilt in the disk and a possible precession of the rotation axis of the main Be star (Pieńkowski et al. 2020) can explain the different shapes of its eclipses (see Fig. 2)

Figure 1: All light curves from EE Cep, in various bands and colors (source: EE Cep 2020).

Figure 2: The proposed model for EE Cep. A thick disk (or rings) passes in front of the primary star Be which rotates around its axis and due to the precession it exhibits different parts of its
surface (Pieńkowski et al. 2020).

Until today three major observing campaigns have been organized in order to uncover the mysteries of EE Cep: in 2003, 2009 and 2014 (Galan et al. 2012, 2014). Despite the wealth of the data collected we still miss a consistent description for the system (Pieńkowski et al. 2020).

Contribution to the current campaign

We have participated in the last international campaign of 2014 with a number of CCD measurements that cover the whole duration of the eclipse. Our results have been published in the 9th Panhellenic Conference on Amateur Astronomy (Maravelias et. al. 2015 – in Greek). In Fig. 3 we show the light curve from these observations.

EE Cep light curve 2014
Figure 3: The light curve of EE Cep during its 2014 eclipse from HAAA’ members’ observations.

Given this experience we are carefully monitoring the current eclipse of 2020, using private and remote telescopes to secure observations at every possible occasion. Our observations will be forwarded to the international observing campaign of 2020-2021 (see the site for more details regarding observations), while we plan to publish our results in a forthcoming paper.

Stay tuned !

References

  • Meinunger 1976, Mitteilungen ueber Veraenderliche Sterne, vol. 7, p. 97
  • Mikolajewski & Graczyk 1999, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 303, p. 521
  • Mikolajewski et al. 2005, Astrophysics and Space Science, vol. 296, p. 451
  • Gałan et al. 2012, Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol. 544, p. 53
  • Gałan et al. 2014, Information Bulletin On Variable Stars, no. 6111, p. 1
  • Pieńkowski et al. 2020, arXiv:2001.05891
  • Romano 1956, Coelum Periodico Bimestrale per la Divulgazione dell’Astronomia, vol. 24, p. 135
  • Romano & Perissinotto 1966, Memorie della Societa Astronomia Italiana, vol. 37, p. 255
  • Maravelias et al. 2015, The light curve of EE Cephei during the 2014 eclipse, Proceedings of the 9th Panhellenic Conference on Amateur Astronomy, Sparta, 9-11 Ocotber 2015, p. 115 [in Greek]




Contributions to the Europlanet workshop “Touching the Planets, Evaluating Excellence”

The Europlanet Society has organized a series of workshops and meetings dedicated to outreach and best practice. During 2018 (July 2 and 3) they organized the workshop “Touching the Planets, Evaluating Excellence” in Athens. The goal of this particular workshop was the demonstration of a toolkit (Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit) appropriate for evaluating outreach activities, as well as practical experience in using the proposed methods.

The first day was devoted to presentations by participants, where they showcased outreach activities and evaluation processes. In total there were 7 talks, targeting students of various ages (pre-school to high-school students) as well as the general public. Among these there were two presentations by members of our club: “Evaluating Star Nights in Mojito Beach Bar in Rhodes island” by Iakovos Strikis, and “Developing new contributors to Astronomy” by Grigoris Maravelias. (The talks are available through our YouTube channel and you can see them below).

During the second day we focused in the application of some evaluation tools. The test case was our visit to the historical building of the National Observatory of Athens at Nymphs’ Hill (Thissio) the previous night.

The central building of the National Observatory of Athens on top of Nymphs’ Hill at Thissio.

A significant part of the workshop was devoted to discussions for exchanging experiences and promoting collaborations. In total, this workshop provided the participants the unique opportunity to communicate their own perspective with respect to Astronomy outreach, to receive feedback, and valuable knowledge on how to evaluate their own activities.

Practicing various evaluation methods.

Learning the various evaluation techniques.


Photographs / Video: Grigoris Maravelias and Iakovos Strikis.

A few more pictures illustrating HAAA’s members by Stelios Kleidis (more can be found at the official site of the Europlanet Society).




Contribution to the EPSC-DPS 2019 conference on outreach evaluation methods

During the 2019 EPSC-DPS joint meeting we had the unique opportunity to present our results from evaluating an outreach / pro-am series of seminars entitled “Introduction to Observational Astronomy” which we carried out in 2018 and 2019. More details follow:

Evaluating introductory seminars on observational astronomy, using the Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit

Moutsouroufi, Konstantina; Maravelias, Grigoris; Marios Strikis, Iakovos; Kardasis, Emmanuel; Voutyras, Orfefs; Kountouris, Giorgos; Evangelopoulos, Athanasios; Aggelis, Konstantinos; Papadeas, Pierros; Schmidt, Tamara; Christou, Apostolos

During December 2018 – February 2019, the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association coordinated a series of seminars entitled “Introduction to Observational Astronomy”. The goal of this series was to introduce interested individuals to the aspects of the observational techniques for scientifically useful observations. Using the Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit we implemented a number of evaluation methods to receive feedback. The results show the participation of a mainly young audience ( 60% between 18-39), where females are represented more than equally ( 52%). Using the “pebbles in a jar” method a 94% of satisfied attendees was measured, while by using post-event surveys (questionnaires) the lectures were perceived as “(very) explicit” and “(very) interesting” (94%), fulfilling the attendees’ expectations (92%). It is important to note that 88% considers that their interest in Astronomy increased and is willing to get involved in observations.

A short paper is available at the NASA/ADS link: 2019EPSC…13.1749M ,
while you can also find a local version of the poster.




Seminars on “Introduction to Observational Astronomy” (2018-2019)

Introduction

During the winter season of 2018-2019 (when the weather conditions are not favorable for observations) we organized a series of seminars entitled “Introduction to Observational Astronomy”. The goal of these seminars was to introduce interested individuals to the aspects of the observational techniques for scientifically useful observations, i.e. how amateur observations can help professionals and contribute to Astronomy in general. The topics were split into specific celestial objects in order to provide a short overview of the amateurs’ contribution and the particular observational methods.

Program

Saturday, December 1, 2018

— Introduction to the amateur observational Astronomy
What is Observational Astronomy? The Greek amateur community and its main events, selected international communities and their activities.

— Under the starry night
Introduction to the starry sky, the constellations, the movement of the celestial objects, as well as various methods of orientation and time calculation.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

— Deciphering the light
The nature of light and how we exploit it to understand and study the celestial objects. Introduction to the basics of photometry and spectroscopy.

— Camera, telescopes, and other equipment
What equipment is required to observe the celestial objects? The human eye as an observing tool, and how telescopes and cameras help us to enhance its capability.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

— Sun, “Star of the Day”
Focus on the Sun, and its importance for the Solar system and for life in Earth. The methods to observe the Sun safely.

— The other “moons” of Earth
An introduction to the artificial satellites in orbit around Earth, and the observational techniques to record them.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

— The smaller “cousins” of the planets
An introduction to the minor bodies of the Solar system, and stellar occultations by them and the planets of the Solar system.

— Shooting stars, the lilliputian inhabitants of our Solar system
Exploring the characteristic properties, the importance, and the methods to systematically record meteors, which are important carriers of information for the history of the Solar system.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

— The Planets and their Moons
A short trip to all planets of our Solar system and to some of their most interesting moons. Discussing the current methods used to observe them, record their dynamic appearance, and to contribute to the Planetary Science.

— The temperamental stars
From birth to death, stars continuously experience phases of instability. Observing variable stars is a key to improve our understanding of stellar evolution.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

— Space clouds and stellar companies
Star clusters, nebulae, galaxies – some of the most impressive sky objects. What equipment is required to see these and which catalogs to use.

— Planets in alien worlds
From hot Jupiters to Super-Earths, a trip to explore the formation of planetary systems.

Feedback

To better acquire and quantify the feedback from the participants we implemented a number of evaluation methods based on the Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit: (a) “pebbles in a jar”, (b) post-event surveys, (c) “3 words”, (d) snapshot interviews. The results are actually impressive, and with some initial processing of the collected data (Moutsouroufi et al. 2019), we have:

  • 94% satisfied participants, as measured by “pebbles in a jar”
  • “Interesting” was the top word selection, followed by “clear” informative”, “detailed”, “understandable”, using the 3-word method
  • 88% would like to know more about each subject presented
  • 91% admitted that their interest in Astronomy increased
  • 88% would like to deal with observations in the future
  • 92% felt that their expectation was fulfilled
  • 97% considered that the whole event was well-organized

Future plans

Currently we are in the process to further exploit the data collected with the post-event surveys, and analyze the snapshot interviews. Upon completion of this process we plant to continue to the publications of the results, in order to share our approach and experience with the community.

However, all feedback, including negative one, was shared with the speakers to improve in future activities. This is crucial since this activity bridges two of our most major actions in this field: (i) a series of 20 theoretical courses on subjects of modern Astronomy (2013-2014), (ii) the “Focus Months” project (2014-2015), where each month was dedicated to a specific astronomical object, including both theory and hands-on workshops on observations and data-analysis (see Maravelias et al. 2018, Kardasis et al. 2015). In that way we have formulated a number of seminars that can proceed gradually from a general view of Astronomy to more specialized topics and finally to hands-on workshops to develop contributors to Science.


All photos © Iakovos Strikis

References
Moutsouroufi, K.; Maravelias, G.; Strikis, I. M.; Kardasis, E.; Voutyras, O.; Kountouris, G.; Evangelopoulos, A.; Aggelis, K.; Papadeas, P.; Schmidt, T.; Christou, A. (2019), Evaluating introductory seminars on observational astronomy, using the Europlanet Evaluation Toolkit, EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019, held 15 – 20 September, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland
— Maravelias, Grigoris; Vourliotis, Emmanouel; Marouda, Krinio; Belias, Ioannis; Kardasis, Emmanouel; Papadeas, Pierros; Strikis, Iakovos D.; Vakalopoulos, Eleftherios; Voutyras, Orfefs (2018), A paradigm to develop new contributors to Astronomy, submitted to the proceedings of IAU FM14 “IAU’s role on global astronomy outreach, the latest challenges and bridging different communities” (Vienna, Aug. 23, 2018), [2018arXiv181004562M]
— Kardasis, E.; Vourliotis, E.; Bellias, I.; Maravelias, G.; Vakalopoulos, E.; Papadeas, P.; Marouda, K.; Voutyras, O. (2015), Spreading the passion for scientifically useful planetary observations, European Planetary Science Congress 2015, held 27 September – 2 October, 2015 in Nantes, France, id.EPSC2015-707 [2015EPSC…10..707K]




The need for Professional-Amateur collaborations to the monitoring of gaseous planets – poster for the 11th HelAS conference

The Hellenic Astronomical conference is the biennial meeting of the Greek professional astronomers’ society. During the 11th version of this conference (held in Athens, Sep. 8-12, 2013), we contributed with a poster presentation on the need of pro-am collaborations for Jupiter and Saturn. In particular:

“The need for Professional-Amateur collaborations to the monitoring of the gaseous giant planets”

Emmanuel Kardasis, Grigoris Maravelias, Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, Glenn Orton, John H. Rogers, Michel Jacquesson, Apostolos Christou, Marc Delcroix

Abstract:
The observation of gaseous giant planets is of high scientific interest. Although they have been the targets of several space missions, the need for continuous ground-based observations still remains. As their atmospheres present fast dynamic environments on various time scales the time availability at professional telescopes is neither uniform not sufficient duration to assess temporal changes. On the other hand, numerous amateurs with small telescopes (with typical apertures of 15-60 cm) and modern hardware and software equipment can monitor these changes daily (within the 360-900nm wavelength range). Amateur observers are able to trace the structure and the evolution of atmospheric features, such as major planetary scale disturbances, vortices, and storms. Photometric monitoring of stellar occultations by the planets can reveal spatial/temporal atmospheric variabilities. Their observations provide a continuous record and it is not uncommon to trigger professional observations in cases of important events, such as sudden onset of global changes, storms and celestial impacts. For example the continuous amateur monitoring has led to the discovery of fireballs in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which provide information not only on Jupiter’s gravitational influence but also on the properties of the impactors.
Thus, co-ordination and communication between professionals and amateurs is important. We present examples of such collaborations that: (i) engage systematic multi-wavelength observations and databases, (ii) examine the variability of Jovian cloud features (JUPOS-Database for Object Positions on Jupiter) and Saturn cloud features, (iii) provide, by ground-based professional and mainly amateur observations, the necessary spatial and temporal resolution of features that will be sampled by the space mission Juno, (iv) investigate video observations of Jupiter to identify impacts of small objects (Jovian Impacts Detection-JID and DeTeCtion of bolides in Jupiter atmosphere -DeTeCt software), (v) carry out stellar occultation campaigns.

You can also download the poster as a pdf file: Kardasis-2013.




The need for Professional-Amateur collaborations in studies of Jupiter and Saturn – a JBAA publication

This work is a collective presentation of the type of contributions within the professional-amateur framework for the study of gaseous giants. In particular:

The need for Professional-Amateur collaborations in studies of Jupiter and Saturn

Emmanuel Kardasis, John H. Rogers, Glenn Orton, Marc Delcroix, Apostolos Christou, Mike Foulkes, Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, Michel Jacquesson, Grigoris Maravelias

The observation of gaseous giant planets is of high scientific interest. Although they have been the targets of several spacecraft missions, there still remains a need for continuous ground-based observations. As their atmospheres present fast dynamic environments on various time scales, the availability of time at professional telescopes is neither uniform nor of sufficient duration to assess temporal changes. However, numerous amateurs with small telescopes (of 15-40 cm) and modern hardware and software equipment can monitor these changes daily (within the 360-900nm range). Amateurs are able to trace the structure and the evolution of atmospheric features, such as major planetary-scale disturbances, vortices, and storms. Their observations provide a continuous record and it is not uncommon to trigger professional observations in cases of important events, such as sudden onset of global changes, storms and celestial impacts. For example, the continuous amateur monitoring has led to the discovery of fireballs in Jupiter’s atmosphere, providing information not only on Jupiter’s gravitational influence but also on the properties and populations of the impactors. Photometric monitoring of stellar occultations by the planets can reveal spatial/temporal variability in their atmospheric structure. Therefore, co-ordination and communication between professionals and amateurs is important. We present examples of such collaborations that: (i) engage systematic multi-wavelength observations and databases, (ii) examine the variability of cloud features over timescales from days to decades, (iii) provide, by ground-based professional and amateur observations, the necessary spatial and temporal resolution of features that will be studied by the interplanetary mission Juno, (iv) investigate video observations of Jupiter to identify impacts of small objects, (v) carry out stellar-occultation campaigns.

The paper is available either through arXiv: 1503.07878 or directly from JBAA (2016, vol. 126, p. 29).