Popular Astronomy

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Variable Star Director

Director: David Scanlan, FRAS

Welcome to the variable star section of the Society for Popular Astronomy. My name is David Scanlan and I am the section director, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself.

I was born and bred in Portsmouth, Hampshire and much of my early years from about 10 years old you would find me nestled in the back garden on the lookout for meteors and observing many other celestial objects with families aged, but very useful, 10X50 binoculars.

The binoculars unfortunately came to a rather unforeseen end and soon after my parents bought me my first telescope which was a small 3″ Refractor which I used for the next 10 years to scan the heavens and find my way around.

During my early teens I became a member of my local astronomical society and really landed on my feet with the group. They had an amazing selection of scopes all housed in domes with great history attached to them; one of the domes actually came from the Greenwich Observatory and used to be the solar observatory in the early 1900’s.

After spending years scouring the night sky I came across Variable stars and that was it. I found my niche. These amazing stars vary in brightness, some on a predictable scale and others completely unexpectedly. I found the allure of variable stars too much to resist and my work on these stars now occupies virtually all of my astronomical work.

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Above: The Director with Sir Patrick Moore. An inspiration to all in astronomy.

I very much enjoy all aspects of astronomy and one of my most memorable moments was watching the impact scars on Jupiter when comet Shoemaker/Levy 9 smashed into the planet. I remember vividly looking through the scope as the first of the dark blemishes came into view – absolutely awesome and a never to be forgotten moment. The sudden brightening of the star Chi Cygni in April 2013 was also a high point 

Well, that’s me in a nutshell. I am always happy to hear from new and experienced variable star observers. If you have never taken the time to investigate and discover variable stars then why not give it a go, you will be surprised how rewarding it is and how little you need in order to make a valuable scientific observation.

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Above: David observing with Patrick Moore’s 12″ reflector that he used to make maps of the moon.