HOYS-CAPS citizen science project Lecture by Dr Dirk Froebrich (University of Kent) – 19th June 2019


I had expected quite a different, more practically oriented talk about the technical details of providing images for the HOYS-CAPS project (Hunting Outbursting Young Stars with the Centre for Astrophysics and Planet Science), and so I was pleasantly surprised that we instead received (with a great deal of German humour) a very well presented revision lecture on the formation of stars and planets.

Having reminded us how stars form from hydrogen, helium and gravity (but countered by thermal pressure, turbulence and magnetic fields) Dr Froebrich continued to discuss our understanding of planet formation, both rocky planets like our own, and gas giants like Jupiter. Measuring the light output from these stars is central to comprehending this and how recording transient changes in star brightness is helping us understand these processes better.

But the key is data and there is only limited time one can get on the big telescopes like Hubble and ALMA – hence the call to amateur astronomers to provide images . The HOYS-CAPS project involves long term, multi-filter optical photometric monitoring of young, nearby star clusters or star forming regions visible from the northern hemisphere. It currently involves about 55 participants who take images of objects on their target list (e.g. the Orion Nebula, NGC 2264, NGC7129 and the Pelican Nebula), perform a basic data reduction (flat-fielding and dark/bias correction) and submit these reduced images for inclusion into the database via a newly developed web-interface.

Dr Froebrich wants to increase participation in HOYS-CAPS to a much larger number of amateur societies across the entire UK. This potentially includes Wycombe Astronomical Society and/or its members, so the aim of this presentation was for us to gain an understanding of the scientific goals and results of the project and how we can participate.

Judging by the number of questions he received and the animated discussions after his talk, it seems there is some interest amongst our membership to engage in real current scientific research.

Sandy Giles