An observational astrophysics project for amateur and professional astronomers

The Southern Eclipsing Binaries Project of Variable Stars South is a multi- purpose and ongoing campaign to observe and analyse bright eclipsing binary stars accessible to Southern Hemisphere observers. Eclipses usually last a few hours at most, so are easily observable by repeated imaging over a night, and eclipse depths can vary from barely observable to a magnitude or more. This makes them ideal targets for a tracking telescope and CCD or DSLR camera, with results that are 10 to 100 times more accurate than visual work as previously used, plus the ability to make measures every minute or less. It’s hard to imagine a more productive way of contributing to astrophysics! Despite their importance and easy observability, large numbers of these binaries have had little or no observational work done on them since discovery, and many more require follow-up work to extend and check existing studies. Very bright eclipsers such as R Ara which used to be the province of visual observers now need monitoring with DSLRs, and CCDs are used for magnitude 10 and fainter targets. For a summary of the importance of eclipsers research, especially by amateurs, including many valuable suggestions for projects, see (Guinan, Engle & Devinney, 2012. JAAVSO 40, 467-480). The project has a number of suggested research activities, listed here, that require varying levels of equipment for adequate observation and varying levels of sophistication in analysis. At the simplest level, basic to all research work, nothing more is needed by the observer than a telescope of any size that can automatically track a target star for many hours, a CCD or DSLR camera for imaging, and photometry software. The SEB project provides target selection and observing advice. Project members can provide mentoring and advice, and we encourage collaboration. We collect various types of data (notably minima timings) for publication; but we encourage and support individuals and groups to carry out their own research aimed at publication under their own names. An important aim of the project is to encourage as many people as possible with suitable equipment or interests in analysis, to learn-by-doing in the project. To achieve this the project supports many levels of sophistication in observing, starting with the most basic which is fundamental to all work – obtaining an hours-long time-series with a CCD or DSLR camera , and carrying out photometry on the images. Similarly, analysis work starts by obtaining the simplest and most fundamental result from the photometry – measurement of the time of an eclipse minimum.

How can I join in?

Have a read about Research Activities, decide what interests you, and contact Mark (DSLR) or Tom (CCD) about your intentions. For observers, the first activity (finding minima) is the place to start. We will help you get going, and when you have some results to show, we’ll join you to the project’s Dropbox which contains all results and further information.
Welcome to the VSS Southern Eclipsing Binary Project
Project Leaders: Mark Blackford (DSLR) markgblackford at Tom Richards (CCD & website) tomprettyhill at Please contact us for enquiries. Status: Active. This is an amalgamation of two previous VSS projects: EA eclipsing binaries (SPADES) and EB-EW eclipsing binaries. Join our email group /d/forum/vss-sebrg
Page author: TJR Last edit: 2017-08-01