John and I are separated by a continent, but bound together by a love of astronomy – and by the immense sense of elegance and awe we find in using a good glass on a still night to turn what the eye told us is a single star into two or more awesome worlds, linked to one another by the universal law of gravity, and pinging our brains with photons that have spanned unspeakable distances and time.
So we are the “star-splitters” of our title – but so are our telescopes. You can take the term “star splitter” to refer to either. There was a time when splitting double was of some serious scientific value. Astronomers learned a lot about the size of stars by seeing how two close ones interacted. But that day is long gone and now star-splitting holds a simple delight that quickly escapes our ability to describe it, though John has done quite a job of it in the page entitled “Why Double Stars.”
In this pursuit we both prefer using our eyes to using CCDs when it comes to gathering light through our telescopes, and we prefer to use our brains over computers when it comes to directing those same scopes – and yes, we even like to use our muscles instead of motors to move the scopes and compensate for the Earth’s constant rotation. Don’t jump to the conclusion, however, that we are therefore neoludites and crusaders for going backwards. If we were neoludites what are we doing here on the Web? And if we were crusaders we would be yammering for others to “do it our way” when in truth, we think everyone should find what works best for them. This is simply a matter of personal preference for us, as are many of the choices we make in terms of the stars we observe and the telescopes we use to observe them.
So what will you find here? Simply our observations of some of our favorite multiple stars. We recorded them first as a record for ourselves, but chose to make the record public because we though others might find it useful. This is not meant to be the ultimate guide to doubles – but if you have a small telescope you might want to join us in the fun – look at some of these same stars, and add your comments to our posts. The doubles remain the same, but how we experience them varies tremendously depending on everything from the telescope we use, to the weather conditions at the time of observing, to the sensitivity of our eyes to different colors. So your comments are welcome. And we hope you will find our observations and comments useful in your star-splitting pursuit.
And of course we hope you find the same magic in double stars that poet Robert Frost found when he wrote these lines in his well-known poem, “The Star Splitter.”
Often he bid me come and have a look
Up the brass barrel, velvet black inside,
At a star quaking in the other end.
I recollect a night of broken clouds
And underfoot snow melted down to ice,
And melting further in the wind to mud.
Bradford and I had out the telescope.
We spread our two legs as it spread its three,
Pointed our thoughts the way we pointed it,
And standing at our leisure till the day broke,
Said some of the best things we ever said.
That telescope was christened the Star-splitter,
Because it didn’t do a thing but split
A star in two or three the way you split
A globule of quicksilver in your hand
With one stroke of your finger in the middle.