Arne Henden became AAVSO Director at the peak of his career as an observational astronomer and instrument / software specialist.
Arne was born in Huron, South Dakota, but that would not be the only place he called home as a child. The son of a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Civil Engineer, Arne received the chance as a child to travel the United States and world with his father, mother, and two sisters. Arne's father, Ward, built missile silos and roads in South Dakota, dams on Lake Powell in Arizona and Lake Monroe in Indiana, as well as hospitals and schools in Iran prior to retiring as a Public Works Engineer at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Along the way, Arne's interest in astronomy would first be piqued by a chance to view Saturn through the historic 24" Clark refractor at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. His mother, Esther, encouraged his interest in astronomy, giving him his first telescope as a Christmas present. Later, his older sister's boyfriend, who brought copies of Sky & Telescope to keep Arne distracted whenever he visited, would inadvertently nurture this interest even further.
This early interest in astronomy would transform itself into an astronomical education and career. Arne received a Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1972, and Masters in Physics from UNM in 1975. He later went on to receive a Master of Science in Astronomy in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1985 from the University of Indiana in Bloomington. One of his early research experiences included a summer studying Cepheid pulsations with Art Cox at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Between the phases in his higher education, Arne worked for Dikewood Industries in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Systems and Applied Sciences Corporation in Seabrook, Maryland. These jobs included working on software and systems development for Federal government contracts. After obtaining his Ph.D., Arne moved to The Ohio State University in Columbus to participate in the Columbus Project (later the Large Binocular Telescope) and to build astronomical instruments for the astronomy department. His instruments included CCD imagers, a spectrograph, a Fabry-Perot imager, and an NIR imager/spectrograph for the 1.8-m Perkins telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Throughout his life, Arne, astronomy, and Flagstaff would repeatedly cycle together. From 1993-2005, Arne worked at the U.S. Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station as a Senior Research Scientist employed by the Universities Space Research Association, which is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. At NOFS Arne was instrumental in the development of a number of cutting edge imaging systems for visible and near-IR use, supporting the Naval Observatory's astrometric catalog mission (UCAC and USNO-A/B). He also helped to design large-format near-IR detectors, and had a lead role for the L/T dwarf NIR parallax program. He was a member of the USNO team that helped to create specifications for the Discovery Channel 4.2-m telescope project, located in northern Arizona, and he was part of the USNO contingent working on the SDSS survey. Woven through and around these projects, Arne found time to work on his own observational astronomy projects. These include variable stars, transient objects, and precision photometric calibration of hundreds of fields for professional and amateur astronomers. Arne has over 100 peer-reviewed publications as a primary or co-author, and over 350 citations in the NASA Astronomical Data System, (See ADS: Henden) for details. Arne's book (with Ron Kaitchuck) Astronomical Photometry (1978, revised in 1990: Willman-Bell publishers) is one of the classic texts in photometry, and is used by professionals and amateurs alike. Arne is in the process of updating this text to include information on amateur and professional CCD based systems.
Arne's intimate knowledge of CCD imaging and telescopes has been put to use not only in quests for data, but also in quests for beauty. The team of Arne Henden and Al Kelly have produced stunningly beautiful imagery that can be seen at Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Instead of normal RGB filters and simple layering, Arne observes with BVR photometric filters and Al Kelly mixes these images into nearly true-color graphics. More recently, Alson Wong, a California amateur, has been processing images for Arne to be used in presentations.
During his years at NOFS, Arne emerged as one of the premier mentors of amateur astronomers, especially those interested in variable stars and minor planet astrometry. The variable star astronomy community came to know Arne through his regular contributions to AAVSO email groups, such as AAVSO-Discussion, AAVSO-Photometry, The Minor Planet Mailing List (MPML), AAVSO-Eclipsing Binary Group, and the CCD Astrometry/Photometry Group. These contributions are in addition to his membership in a number of professional consortiums involving cataclysmic variable stars and GRB afterglows. He is a member of the AAS, RAS and IAU. Arne is a fixture at amateur-professional astronomy development conferences and workshops including the Society for Astronomical Science, AAVSO High Energy Astrophysics Workshops for Amateur Astronomers, and Amateur-Professional Minor Planet Workshops. He also has been invited to speak at numerous professional conferences, including the Second European Union Research Training Network Meeting on Gamma Ray Bursts: an Enigma and a Tool (Santorini, Greece 2003) and the Monte Rosa conference on "GAIA Spectroscopy, Science and Technology", held in Gressoney St.Jean, Italy (2002).
Arne has both helped nurture existing programs and worked to bring new programs into existence as astronomy has evolved. Two shining examples of Arne's leadership and nurturing are the AAVSO High Energy Network (HEN) and AAVSO Chart Team. Arne was involved at the inception of both these very important and visible groups within AAVSO. The HEN orchestrated successful amateur searches for faint optical afterglows associated with gamma-ray bursts. The detections and photometry performed by this group could not have been possible without Arne's expertise and willingness to make himself and his skills available to AAVSO and its members. Arne is also an integral member of the AAVSO Sequence Team, a group that is updating the calibrated photometry of large numbers of comparison stars.
Although employed as a professional astronomer, Arne has been an observer for and member of AAVSO since 1998, contributing many thousands of observations to the International database. These data points are only the tip of the iceberg. Arne brings with him to AAVSO over a hundred thousand CCD images of AAVSO Program stars. The addition of this data, once extracted, will add immeasurably to our most important asset: The AAVSO International Database.
In addition to observing for AAVSO, Arne served the members of AAVSO for 6 years as a member of AAVSO's Council (its Board of Directors). Arne worked closely with his predecessor, Janet Mattei, on a number of programs and issues. This experience provides Arne with a firm understanding of AAVSO's past that will help in defining AAVSO's future.
When not working, Arne and his wife of 39 years, Linda, like to travel, hike, cross country ski, and go for long road trips though the Northeast. Linda is trained as a landscape architect and loves gardening and spider solitare. For relaxation, Arne runs cross-country, does cabinetry woodwork, and takes landscape photography. They have two cats, Pixie (short for Pixel), and Snowy (short for Snowflake; a stray cat Arne and Linda adopted during a snow storm).
Last Updated: August 17, 2010 - 8:45am