Carbon Star Observing Program

Carbon Star Observing Program Coordinator:

Robert "Rocky" Togni
89 Ponderosa Lane
Heber Springs, AR 72543


Welcome to the Astronomical League’s Carbon Star Observing Program!

Carbon stars are a unique and interesting type of variable star that exhibits peculiar characteristics and spectra.  Most are red giant stars, and their distinguishing feature (and namesake) is the unusually high level of carbon molecules contained in their atmospheres.  They are fascinating objects to observe, as their appearance may change dramatically during the course of their variation period.  While these stars are popularly known for their striking red color, there is a wide range of possible hues that they may display.  For the long-period variables or for those with large magnitude ranges, the apparent color may vary from yellow or orange at maximum to deep orange or red at minimum.  The stars with shorter periods may remain at an almost constant color, and they often appear pale yellow or white.

While these stars are relatively little-known in comparison to the brighter and more famous galaxies and nebulae, their vivid colors are unparalleled by most other observable objects.  This distinctiveness, combined with their unusual characteristics, makes them fascinating subjects for observation, and we hope that through this program you will discover and enjoy these intriguing features for yourself.

Rules and Regulations:

To obtain your certificate and award pin for this program, please purchase the Guide to the Carbon Star Observing Program (available soon at the Astronomical League store).  This manual includes the carbon star observing list, star charts and descriptions of the appearance of each entry, an observation log template, and an overview of the dynamics and composition of carbon stars.  Excellent background information.

The carbon star observing list featured in this program is the product of many hours of painstaking research, observations, and compilation; and was created with the backyard observer in mind.  All of the stars included are between magnitude 8.5 at maximum brightness and 14.0 at minimum, no complex or expensive equipment is required to complete this observing program.  All of these stars are visible through a moderate-sized telescope, and many can be found from considerably light-polluted locations.  I logged a great deal of them from the front yard of my house – surrounded by bright streetlights – with skies heavily permeated by the glow of Houston, TX.

To complete the program, the participant must simply observe and log each of the 100 carbon stars featured on the observing list.  Please note that all observations should include the following basic information:

Observer’s name
Object name
Date/Time (local or Universal Time)
Observing Site (Latitude and Longitude are preferred)
Sky conditions (Seeing, Transparency, Moon Phase, etc.)
Telescope used
Eyepiece used
Detailed description of the object
Sketch of the object (should include at least 5 field stars, if possible)

An observation log template containing these fields is available in the Guide to the Carbon Star Observing Program.  Any other log form of your choosing may also be used, as long as it meets these specifications.

While “go-to” telescope systems are allowed for submissions, they are not recommended.  Rather, traditional star-hopping or setting circle methods are suggested and enthusiastically encouraged for the completion of this list, as they require the observer to truly learn the sections of the sky they are exploring; an effort which gives a greater sense of personal achievement once the object is successfully located.

To submit your observations, mail the copies of your logs to Aaron Clevenson, Program Coordinator, along with your name, address, astronomy club or Astronomical League affiliation, e-mail, and phone number.  Please do not send your original logs, as they will not be returned.  Upon the reception and verification of the observations by the Program Coordinator, a certificate and award pin will be sent to the address provided, or to the Awards Coordinator of your club for presentation at the next club meeting (if requested).

Good luck and enjoy these stellar jewels.

Please send your submission to:

Carbon Star Observing Program Coordinator:

Robert "Rocky" Togni
89 Ponderosa Lane
Heber Springs, AR 72543

Related Links:

Printable List of Carbon Stars to Observe