My Positive Experience Using SSON

Dave Dowhos is an avid Canadian amateur astronomer who started using SSON for his astronomy research projects in December 2013. I helped him get stared in remote astronomy back then and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s very enthusiast and curious about many astronomy subjects. He’s become one of our most regular users since he started out. Because he represents the broad spectrum of citizen scientists discovering the huge benefits of remote astronomy facilities like SSON I asked him if he would write a blog to share his experience with others. He graciously agreed and wrote this blog.

Rich Williams

My Positive Experience Using SSON

by Dave J. Dowhos

I first learned about The Sierra Stars Observatory Network (SSON) from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). After I researched SSON and its various telescopes I was determined to give it a try and I have never regretted it. SSON has allowed me to investigate and collect astronomical data that I never knew was available to the amateur astronomer.

In  2011 I had just finished monitoring, using a digital camera and a 10 inch Dobsonian telescope, the Supernova SN 2011 fe in M101. The Fall weather, here on the northwestern shores of Lake Superior, was starting to put restrictions on my viewing sessions.  I was not happy with my results and my limiting equipment.

I later started to investigate remote telescopes and it was suggested to me that I should consider using SSON. I soon found that SSON works seamlessly with VPhot at AAVSO as your data is easily processed.

When Supernova SN 2014J in M82 appeared  during January 2014, I was ready.  Using my SSON images and VPhot, I immediately  started to obtain  excellent results .  For me this was a big breakthrough to expand my interests in astronomy.

I must mention that the  online tutorials provided by SSON are very well presented and if you do run into problems then a quick email to Rich Williams will get you quickly back on track. VPhot also has excellent tutorials and you can process all of your work online if you are a member of AAVSO.

I found that  my data using SSON on SN 2014J is in good agreement (Figure 1 and Figure 2) with those determined by other international observatories and individual observers from around the globe. This light curve has already been published in various scientific articles and journals as scientists study these Type 1A supernovae which are used to measure  distances to distant galaxies.

Figure 1

Figure 1 – FITS image of SN 2014J in M82 using the Rigel telescope in SSON

Figure 2

Figure 2 – Blue crosses on the Light Curve show my data processed from SSON Images. I used mostly the V filter (green) but did one Blue filter and one Red filter as checks.


I also enjoy studying variable stars of which there are multitude of classes, many of which are difficult to reach with a small backyard telescope. Recently I have been studying Pre-Main Sequence stars also know as YSO’s or Young Stellar Objects. My favorite proto-planetary systems in this category of YSO’s consist of T Tauri stars such as AA Tau, BP Tau, DN Tau, RY Tau and so on. They all have their different physical characteristics making for interesting individual light curves.

While researching a star I often make diagrams of the individual star’s system that I study so I concentrate on quality and knowledge rather than just collecting tons of data on many stars. I feel that I  gain a bigger understanding of our Universe by doing this.

High Mass Binary X-Ray Stars (AR UMa) and Magnetic Cataclysmic Variables (AM Her) are also on my “to do list” of variable stars . There is no way that I could reach some of these16th magnitude stars from my back yard . Thanks to SSON I now have this ability.

Below is an digital mage of AM Her that I recently obtained using SSON’s Rigel telescope followed by the results of my analysis using VPhot and the final light curve.

Figure 3

Figure 3 – SSON image of AM HER and surrounding comparative stars.

My analysis of the image data in Figure 3 was done easily using VPhot. The results are shown in Figure 4. You SSON images can be sent directly to VPhot by simply checking the appropriate boxes in the scheduling form on the SSON website.

Figure 4

Figure 4


Figure 5

Figure 5 – Resulting light curve for AM Her…my data is in there along with many others


My next project using SSON will likely be in the area of spectroscopy as the equipment I personally own is limited to the nearby bright stars.  SSON has spectrographic equipment that can create spectra of objects well beyond the capabilities of many backyard telescopes. It should be interesting.

So if cold temperatures, light pollution or cloudy skies, poor seeing conditions curtail your astronomy interests, or if you want to see deeper into the cosmos then try SSON.  It’s easy to pick your target and submit your request using SSON. Soon after your images are taken you are notified that they are ready for you to download and analyze …. and you can do it all in the comfort of your own home at your convenience.

SSON gives you many opportunities to collect data that can be shared with the scientific community, or digital images that can be processed into beautiful pictures of nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, plus much more. One can even track the orbit within double star systems by processing SSON images on VPhot.

If you want to expand your astronomy horizons then try Sierra Stars Observatory Network . It can take you down many different and interesting paths. I highly recommend it!

About Dave J. Dowhos

Dave Dowhos

Dave lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario on the shore of Lake Superior. Besides being an avid amateur astronomer he is an experienced pilot including T-33 jets in the Reserves. He has a degree mechanical engineering and was one of the first Canadians to be awarded The  Canadian Prime Ministers Award for Teaching Excellence in Science,Technology and Mathematics. In addition Dave received a one year University Certificate in Astronomy and a two year University Certificate in Astrophysics of Galaxies  (University of Central Lancashire).


Leave a Reply