If you've ever been to AAVSO headquarters, you've probably seen a small Maksutov telescope in a clear plastic case sitting on a shelf or cabinet in the front office. Its an unassuming table top scope on a little fork mount that looks more like a curiosity than a scientific instrument. If you're like me you probably wondered for about two seconds where it came from and what the story is behind it, and then never gave it another thought. Continue Reading
I was recently lucky enough to take a ten-day trip crisscrossing Israel with forty other young adults. It was an incredible journey that included floating in the Dead Sea, winding through the streets of old Jerusalem, enjoying the Tel Aviv nightlife, and hiking up a rock plateau to Masada. However, by far the most profound experience I had was stargazing in the desert region of the Negev.
The AAVSO is not the only citizen science organization that celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. The American Meteor Society (AMS) also celebrated it's centennial. But the connection with the AAVSO goes beyond that. Continue Reading
I met Michael Koppelman for the first time sitting under a cabana at the Outrigger Hotel in Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii, at the 2002 Spring Meeting. We had a lot in common, being relatively new to the AAVSO, former professional musicians, variable star enthusiasts, married with children and working for companies we owned. We hit it off right away. Neither of us could have ever imagined that ten years later he would be in line to become president of the AAVSO and I would be on the staff of the organization we love so dearly.
I caught up with Michael recently and we talked about the AAVSO, the future and strategic planning. Continue Reading
One of the things I enjoy doing most is acting as a spokesperson for the AAVSO and sharing my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm about variable stars, observing and the AAVSO with other people. I write blogs, newsletter pieces and articles that reach a lot of people, but there is nothing like the experience of meeting new people face to face and watching their eyes light up as you explain variable stars and stellar evolution, or the seeing light go on as they realize, "Hey, I could do this too!" Continue Reading
There are hundreds of astronomy clubs and astronomical societies in the world, and one thing almost all of them have in common is they produce a monthly newsletter. Not too surprisingly, a lot of them have very similar names, like 'Prime Focus' or 'The Reflector'. Put together by volunteers, some of these newsletters are first rate publications. I've seen some that have full color layouts and typesetting like a magazine you could buy off the rack. Continue Reading
In my life away from HQ I am, among many other things, a competitive chess player. (Now, before anyone gets any ideas, remember, I never said I was good!) If anyone has been following me on any social media outlets you can't help but know this because my activities tend to have the same curves as a cataclysmic variable, and right now my chess activity is in outburst.
What does this have to do with astronomy? Well, at the risk of being stereotypical, chess is seen as a smart person's game. Astronomy is seen as being a smart person's activity as well. If Stephanie Slater's research is any indication AAVSO members tend to be even moreso "smarter than your average bear."
On the evening of 7 December this year the world of Astronomy and Chess collided in a rather nice and educational fashion. Continue Reading
I am currently checking the data on about 500 long period variables - Miras and semiregulars - for a project spearheaded by Matthew Templeton. Many of these stars average more than 30,000 observations in the AAVSO International Database and cover an interval of approximately 90-170 years.
In October, the Council elected Dr. Mario Motta the first President of the second century of the AAVSO. In November, I interviewed Mario to find out more about the man who will be presiding over the Council for the next couple years. Continue Reading
I first met Roger at the AAVSO meeting in Rockford in 2006. He joined Aaron Price, a few of my closest AAVSO friends, and me, in my hotel room one night and regaled us with stories of the good ole days and Clint Ford’s ‘hospitality suite’ at AAVSO meetings in the 60’s and 70’s until the wee morning hours.
I met up with him again at the Citizen Sky meeting in Chicago in 2009, and shortly after we began corresponding and keeping up with each other through email and Facebook. Recently, we partnered up to co-author a paper about some of the giants in AAVSO history for the Centennial Edition of the JAAVSO. In October, I was able to visit Roger on the way back from a speaking engagement in St. Louis, and there is no better way to get to know someone than to spend a day with him in his castle, with his family, cats and memories. Continue Reading