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Understanding Variable Stars
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  • Page extent: 374 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.87 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 523.844
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: QB835 .P395 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Variable stars

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521232531)

This book was first published in 2007. Variable stars are those that change brightness. Their variability may be due to geometric processes such as rotation, or eclipse by a companion star, or physical processes such as vibration, flares, or cataclysmic explosions. In each case, variable stars provide unique information about the properties of stars, and the processes that go on within them. This book provides a concise overview of variable stars, including a historical perspective, an introduction to stars in general, the techniques for discovering and studying variable stars, and a description of the main types of variable stars. It ends with short reflections about the connection between the study of variable stars, and research, education, amateur astronomy, and public interest in astronomy. This book is intended for anyone with some background knowledge of astronomy, but is especially suitable for undergraduate students and experienced amateur astronomers who can contribute to our understanding of these important stars.

• Provides a broad overview of the topic for skilled amateur astronomers • Written with undergraduate research students in mind; students can not only contribute to variable star research, but they learn high-level science and math skills by doing so • Includes extensive discussion of the history and development of the field of variable star research, based on the author's 40 years of experience


1. Introduction; 2. Stars in general; 3. Rotating variable stars; 4. Eclipsing variable stars; 5. Pulsating variable stars; 6. Cataclysmic variable stars; 7. Young variable stars; 8. Miscellaneous variable stars; 9. Applications of variable stars; 10. Epilogue; Appendices.


Review of the hardback: 'If you want a comprehensive guide to the science of variable stars, you can't go wrong with a book written by John Percy, a world authority on variable star observation.' BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Review of the hardback: '… tightly written, and frequently interspersed with figures and graphs, the book contains an enormity of fact and discussion … a foremost authority on Variable Stars, and is a marvellous repository of information. As such it is an ideal textbook for a serious student, or a reference book for the amateur astronomer.' Astronomy & Space

Review of the hardback: '… the book achieves its aim of providing an overview of variable-star astronomy, and given the size of the field this is no mean feat. It comes with an excellent index …' The Observatory

Review of the hardback: 'It seems likely to me that Understanding Variable Stars was written with the American Association of Variable Star Observers members in mind. …It is certainly the most up-to-date readable description of the various types of starts and what is known about each. …Basically, if you observe variable starts, you should read and probably own this book. Thank you, Dr. Percy!' American Association of Variable Star Observers Bookstore

Review of the hardback: 'In this beautiful book, John Percy, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Toronto, describes in detail the wide range of variable stars and their study. After a touching memory of Janet Mattei (1943–2004), director of the AAVSO for thirty years (and G. B. Lacchini UAI Award 1995), with whom Percy shared a long season of collaborations, the author describes the … development of the variable stars, doing well to understand how technology has, over time, changed the conditions of observation, accuracy, and reduced mass of data. … The book is well documented and full of charts, drawings and images. Each chapter has a specific and very accurate bibliography.' Astronomia

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