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AAVSO Officers and Council Members - Mike Joner

Mike Joner (Council member: 2016-2018)

"I was raised in southwest Washington and became interested in science and astronomy as a young boy. My mother drove me to star parties organized by the Portland Astronomical Society, where I met other amateur astronomers. I worked with experienced amateurs who taught me how to grind mirrors and build my own telescope. When I was in high school, my father helped me build an observatory in our back yard. As I moved on with my education, I continued to seek out ways to make astronomy a major part of my life. I had always wanted to be a PhD astronomer and work as an observational researcher. To that end, I focused on physics and astronomy in college. I have been the resident astronomer at Brigham Young University since 1981, where I hold the rank of Research Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

My research has focused primarily on using photometric techniques to study just about anything that varies with time. During a typical night of research at the West Mountain Observatory, targets observed can include active galaxies, transiting exoplanet candidates, globular cluster RR Lyrae stars, eclipsing binaries, SX Phe stars, recent supernovae, Cepheids, and even occasional solar system objects. I have had opportunities to work as a visiting astronomer at major facilities all around the world. I have spent hundreds of nights at Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo, and the South African Astronomical Observatory. I generally work on the modest sized meter-class telescopes, but have had the chance to spend nights working on larger telescopes such as the 4-meter on Kitt Peak or the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea. One cool experience I had was to fly on the NASA Kuiper Airborne Observatory and do infrared observations. I have even collaborated with amateur astronomers to produce educational images and secured the data for three NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Day in 2012.

My astronomy research has involved collaborations with both professional and amateur astronomers, which I find to be the most satisfying combination of research and enthusiasm. Modern technology and the invaluable gifts of time and desire enable amateur astronomers to secure observations that are scientifically valuable. Their passion for the subject provides me with a welcome respite from the administrative and other non-astronomical demands of my work.

I found the AAVSO early in my life but allowed raising my family, along with working and living at WMO, to put off membership until a later time. I’m now working to make up for lost time and plan to be a part of the AAVSO as long as I’m on the planet. These last few years of being a member of the AAVSO and attending the meetings have given me an opportunity to work in research that combines the best of scientific investigation along with a love of astronomy and the night sky. I urge members to continue to make observations of any variable objects they choose. My goal is to use my research background and decades of observational experience to provide assistance and suggestions that will help make the efforts of all AAVSO observers to have the maximum scientific value to other researchers throughout the astronomical community."

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