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Glenn Chaple's observing basics: See the red star round-up

October 2008: Herschel's Garnet Star and Hind's Crimson Star burn red and brightly this month.
Have you ever been "Purkinjed?" If you're a variable star observer, you're susceptible to this phenomenon, called the Purkinje effect, whenever you try to make a visual magnitude estimate of a red star.

Stare at the star directly, and its crimson light excites your retina. As a result, you perceive the star as being brighter than it really is. To avoid being Purkinjed by this color of star, I either quick-glance between it and the nearby field stars I'm comparing it to, or I defocus my telescope to reduce its intensity.

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