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The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) is an international nonprofit organization. Founded in 1911, the organization focuses on coordinating, analyzing, publishing, and archiving variable star observations made largely by amateur astronomers. [1] The AAVSO creates records that establish light curves depicting the variation in brightness of a star over time. The AAVSO makes these records available to professional astronomers, researchers, and educators.

Professional astronomers do not have the resources to monitor every variable star. Hence, astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can make significant contributions to scientific research. [2] In 2011, the 100th year of the AAVSO's existence, the twenty-millionth variable star observation was received into their database. [3] The AAVSO International Database (AID) has stored over thirty-five million observations as of 2019. [4] The organization receives nearly 1,000,000 observations annually from an estimated amount of 2,000 professional and amateur observers, and is quoted regularly in scientific journals. [5] [6] [7]

The AAVSO is also very active in education and public outreach. They routinely hold training workshops for citizen science and publish papers with amateurs as co-authors. In the 1990s, the AAVSO developed the Hands-On Astrophysics curriculum, now known as Variable Star Astronomy [8] (with support from the National Science Foundation [NSF]). In 2009, the AAVSO was awarded a three-year $800,000 grant from the NSF to run Citizen Sky, [9] a pro-am collaboration project examining the 2009-2011 eclipse of the star epsilon Aurigae. [10]

As of September 16, 2022, the Executive Director of the AAVSO is Brian Kloppenborg. Before he assumed this role, Kathy Spirer worked in this capacity for nine months, following the resignation of Styliani ("Stella") Kafka -who was in charge from February 2015 till the ember months of 2021. She succeeded Arne Henden. The previous director of the AAVSO for many decades was Janet Mattei, who died in March 2004 of leukemia. [11]

Twenty scientists, mostly men, standing for a group photograph in 1916.
AAVSO members in 1916, meeting at Harvard College Observatory. The two women in the photograph are Ida E. Woods (front row) and Annie Jump Cannon (behind Woods).

The AAVSO headquarters was originally located at the residence of its founder William T. Olcott in Norwich, Connecticut.

After AAVSO's incorporation in 1918, it unofficially moved to Harvard College Observatory, which later served as the official AAVSO headquarters (1931–1953). [12] Thereafter, it moved around Cambridge before their first building was purchased in 1985 - The Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center. [13] In 2007, the AAVSO purchased and moved into the recently vacated premises of Sky & Telescope magazine. [14]

Minor Planet (8900) AAVSO is named after the organization. [15]

Current and former members

Recorders and Directors
Presidents [16]
Other members

The AAVSO currently has over 2,000 members and observers, with approximately half of them from outside the United States. This list only consists of those with Wikipedia pages.


See also


  1. ^ Saladyga, M. (1999). "The "Pre-Embryonic" State of the AAVSO: Amateur Observers of Variable Stars in the United States From 1875 to 1911". Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. 27 (2): 154–170. Bibcode: 1999JAVSO..27..154S.
  2. ^ Ferris, T. (2003). Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe. Simon & Schuster. p. 54. ISBN  0-684-86580-7.
  3. ^ Simonsen, M. (February 23, 2011). "20 Million Observations by Amateur Astronomers". Universe Today. Archived from the original on 2011-03-01. Retrieved 2011-05-16.
  4. ^ "35 million points and counting! |". Archived from the original on 2019-05-29. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  5. ^ Percy, J. R.; Desjardins, A.; Yu, L.; Landis, H. J. (2002). "Small Amplitude Red Variables in the AAVSO Photoelectric Program: Light Curves and Periods". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 108: 139. Bibcode: 1996PASP..108..139P. doi: 10.1086/133703.
  6. ^ Cannizzo, J. K. (2002). "The Accretion Disk Limit Cycle Model: Toward an Understanding of the Long-Term Behavior of SS Cygni". The Astrophysical Journal. 419: 318. Bibcode: 1993ApJ...419..318C. doi: 10.1086/173486. Archived from the original on 2022-01-29. Retrieved 2019-06-30.
  7. ^ Kiss, L. L.; Szatmáry, K.; Cadmus, R. R. Jr.; Mattei, J. A. (1999). "Multiperiodicity in semiregular variables. I. General properties". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 346: 542–555. arXiv: astro-ph/9904128. Bibcode: 1999A&A...346..542K.
  8. ^ "Variable Star Astronomy". Archived from the original on 2021-04-21. Retrieved 2010-02-19.
  9. ^ "Citizen Sky". Archived from the original on 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2022-01-29. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  11. ^ Williams, T. R.; Willson, L. A. (2004). "Obituary: Janet Akyüz Mattei, 1943-2004". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 36 (5): 1681–1682. Bibcode: 2004BAAS...36.1681W.
  12. ^ Williams, T. R.; Saladyga, M. (2011). Advancing Variable Star Astronomy - The Centennial History of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Cambridge University Press. ISBN  978-0-521-51912-0.
  13. ^ Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center Archived 2006-12-31 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2020-09-18. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
  15. ^ "(8900) AAVSO = 1995 UD2" (PDF). Minor Planet Circular. Minor Planet Center. 1 May 2003. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-06-12. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  16. ^ "Officers of the AAVSO since 1911". Archived from the original on 2021-07-09. Retrieved 2021-07-09.
  17. ^ Dorrit Hoffleit "The Maria Mitchell Observatory: For Astronomical Research and Public Enlightenment" Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers Volume 30, 2001, p70, Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine where her photograph from 1930 appears.
  18. ^ "AAVSO: Part Four: The AAVSO and International Cooperation". Archived from the original on 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  19. ^ "John E. Bortle - 2013 Leslie Peltier Award". Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2014.

External links