Double Stars for Fun and Profit

William Hartkopf
U.S. Naval Observatory

2253rd Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 3, 2009 at 8:15 PM

William Hartkopf


This talk will describe some of the research being done in the field of double or binary stars - using some of the world's largest telescopes and some of the smallest, instruments. Binary stars can tell us some of the most fundamental information about stars: how big, how hot, how massive, how long they'll live, whether they can have planets that could possibly harbor life. They can tell us something about how stars are born and how they change as they mature. They can even tell us something about the evolution of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Astronomy is one of the rare areas of science where amateurs still play a useful role, and double star work is one specialty within astronomy where they can really shine. This talk will discuss ways in which the contributions of those who do it for fun can complement those who do it for profit (although having a bit of fun in the process). The year 2009 has been named the “International Year of Astronomy” by UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union. This talk will note some of the local events planned in commemoration.

About the Author:

William Hartkopf is an astronomer in the Astrometry Department at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. He came to DC in 1999, after 18 years in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Georgia State University in Atlanta. There he served as a research astronomer, associate professor, and assistant director of their Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy.

He has served as president of the Double and Multiple Stars Commission of the International Astronomical Union and co-chaired two IAU symposia. He has served on review panels for the National Science Foundation and the Space Telescope Science Institute. He has authored over 200 papers and articles and edited two Books. He has done astronomical observations in Mauna Kea, Hawaii; Mount Wilson, California; and Cerro Tololo, Chile. His research interests are largely centered on the study of binary and multiple stars: observing them using the technique of speckle interferometry, cataloguing them for future astronomers, and analyzing their motions for determination of stellar masses and other fundamental properties.

He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York, followed by M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astronomy from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana.

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