The AAVSO forums have been around for some time now, but with the end of the email discussion lists, they have greatly increased in activity. The forums are organized, accessible to the public, and easy to moderate. But personally, I think the best thing about the forums is that they are a communal resource.
"The world's greatest non-professional astronomer."
That is what Harlow Shapley called Leslie Peltier. If that is true, then why don't more people know about Peltier? I think the simple truth is he was a very private, soft-spoken man, who never sought the limelight and would have been embarrassed by all the attention he gets nowadays.
I've tried several times to write about Leslie Peltier, but every time before, I have begun thumbing through his classic book, Starlight Nights, for references and quotes and ended up reading the whole thing from cover to cover again instead of writing the piece that was my original intention. I'll never get tired of reading it. There are a lot of books that tell you how to observe the heavens and what you will find when you do, but this book always reminds me of why I love to be out under the stars at the eyepiece of a telescope, soaking in the sounds and smells of nature and admiring the majesty of the universe with my own eyes. Continue Reading
Many of you may remember an interesting human interest story that started at the AAVSO some three years ago. Our Sciences Director, Dr. Matthew Templeton, found in the McAteer Library a doctoral thesis entitled "A Photoelectric Study of Some RV Tauri and Yellow Semiregular Variables." Matt went to the ADS to see if the thesis and its data had been digitized. It hadn't. Matt then looked up to see what else the author had written as the thesis has been published in 1956.
I was hired by the AAVSO in May, 1998 as their "IT person". At the time, HQ was running an exclusively Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 environment. Spider webs of copper co-ax cable still hung from the ceilings as they had just switched to ethernet a few months prior. There was a single CD-ROM in the entire building, which required reservations to use. All data programs ran on MS-DOS and the sole file server was Windows NT. The AID was kept as column-deliminated ASCII text files.
One of many hats that I wear at the AAVSO is to act as good steward to the AAVSO International Database, one of the AAVSO's greatest assets. Part of the work of stewardship is not just to collect and archive data but to encourage the collection and use of "good data". I don't know of a standard definition of "good data" but I'll take a stab at one: good data is accurate information representing physical reality that enables researchers to productively create and test new and better models for the behavior of the world. More succinctly, good data is that which is useful for doing good science. Continue Reading
While checking out my bedroom window for clear skies the other night, I noticed the first fireflies of the season, blinking and darting in the horse pasture behind the house. And it reminded me of a Robert Frost poem I couldn't quite recall. So this morning I looked it up on the internet. Gotta love Google.
Fireflies in the Garden
BY ROBERT FROST
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part. Continue Reading
The 2012 Spring Meeting of the AAVSO was held last week in Big Bear, California. This was my first time in Big Bear and I was very impressed by the quality of the talks at this joint meeting with The Society for Astronomical Sciences (SAS)! I was thrilled to make so many new acquaintances - both AAVSO and SAS members. In addition to the contributed talks AAVSO Council member, John Martin gave a workshop on spectroscopy and the AAVSO's Assistant Director, Aaron Price presented a workshop on VPHOT. Continue Reading
A few days ago I received an email containing pictures of an Iranian astronomy magazine cover and the article pages of an interview I gave several months ago. To be honest, I'd forgotten about the whole thing, so this was quite a surprise. The Night Sky cover and interior pages are very colorful. Unfortunately, I can't read Farsi, so I'm not sure what portions of the interview made it into print.
They asked questions about the AAVSO, variable stars and my own personal story. They were also interested in how much I knew about their science and astronomy culture and history. I hope I passed the 'Ugly American Test'!
It also dawned on me that this is probably why I've had a sudden surge in Facebook friend requests from the Middle East. It's good to know that in spite of our governments' differences, people can still communicate in the universal language of curiosity and the pursuit of scientific answers.
Assuming that most or all of the questions and answers exchanged in the interview made it into print, here is the text of the interview I returned to them. Continue Reading
On Saturday and Sunday April 28th and 29th, the Rockland Astronomy Club held its 21st Annual Northeast Astronomy Forum and Telescope Show in Suffern, New York. This was the first NEAF for my husband and me and we had a great time. The talks, solar observing, and raffles all added to the festive atmosphere. Continue Reading
A serendipitous discovery of perhaps the most famous member in AAVSO history... Continue Reading