Lurking in the seemingly changeless constellations are a few inconstant stars that pulse and eclipse. Here are a dozen variables that are easy to observe.
Robin Leadbeater of Wigton, UK, has reported the first sign of the long-awaited eclipse of Epsilon Aurigae, one of the most remarkable eclipsing variable stars in the sky.
Beta Lyrae, an eclipsing binary, is one of the brightest and easiest-to-find variable stars in the sky.
The red, Mira-type variable star Chi Cygni has had a very unusual maximum. It's one of the brightest such variables to begin with (typically peaking at about magnitude 5.2), but in late July and early August 2006, it peaked at about magnitude 3.8.
This red long-period variable is sometimes visible to the unaided eye and sometimes invisible even in a 4-inch telescope.
The satellite caught tantalizing pieces of light curves for many new variable stars. Now it's time to fill in the details.
Few observers have spotted an ever-elusive "new" star. Fewer still have done it twice. Observing styles and techniques are as varied as the searchers themselves.
Some of the Hipparcos satellite's unfinished business provides fair game for backyard observers.
Now you can calculate the dates and times (local and Universal Times) when the eclipsing variable star Algol should be at its dimmest (magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1).
Studying and recording the ups and downs of variable stars is a pleasant pastime that can also be scientifically rewarding. Here's a simple project to get you going.
One is usually bright but fades unexpectedly; one is almost always faint but brightens unexpectedly. Check them out with binoculars.
For the fourth summer in a row, the head of the bright constellation Scorpius looks a little unusual.
Keep an eye on Cassiopeia it contains a naked-eye star that may brighten and dim dramatically in the coming months.
This naked-eye variable should be near peak brightness every Wednes-day night during August, September, and October.
Catch a orange-red variable star in Cygnus, the Swan, as its brightness peaks in early July.
The long-period variable star T Cephei peaks this October. The star is relatively easy to locate in binoculars because of its red hue.
An unusually bright supernova has gone off in NGC 2403, an 8.5-magnitude galaxy in the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe.
The long-period variable Chi Cygni peaks in March. Here's where to find it and what to expect.