Dull Stars Get their Day in the Spotlight 06 Jul 12

Have you ever wondered why bright stars get all the love while the mediocre stars are left unnoticed and unaccounted? No? Well, no matter, the American Association of Variable Star Observers Photometric All-Sky Survey (APASS) has taken it upon themselves to catalogue over 40 million stars that have never been studied in any earlier star-mapping expeditions.

The stars included in the project are 100 times fainter than any previously recorded stars; however, most are still visible by backyard stargazers using amateur telescopes. According to Arne Hendon, director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), “Prior surveys have done a good job measuring the brightness of stars. Other organizations have announced plans to measure faint stars. But, this Goldilocks zone of stars that are neither too bright or too faint has been neglected, until now.”

The stars in question range from a magnitude of 10 to 16.5 (the lower the magnitude the brighter the star), and the data is being collected from 8-inch telescopes that are able to take in an impressive 1,000 square degrees each night. APASS feels the information will help astronomers create a better map of the stars– making it easier to track interesting celestial bodies.

The initiative started in 2009 and is planned to be completed in 2014. Both amateurs and professionals are working on the project and have their telescopes set up in Chile and New Mexico.

If you want to monitor the progress, you can find their early data on the AAVSO website.  On the other hand, if you’re wondering who would waste time and money on such a tedious undertaking, hold off on you rant as the AAVSO is an independent, private research organization, so no public funds were used.

What’s your opinion? Is cataloging 40 million stars worth the effort, or should the AAVSO devote their efforts to more economy-boosting endeavors?