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Map of AAVSO Members & Observers

The AAVSO - The World is Our Oyster

by Kevin B. Paxson - PKV

Recently, I finished working with Aaron on the compiling the results of the AAVSO Demographic Survey of 2011.  While age, gender, education, profession, equipment, objects of interest and AAVSO activities are important demographic data, these data are only rendered as graphs, statistics and trends over time.  These representations of our members and observers can sometimes seem static, generic and one dimensional when compared to the true nature of the members and observers of AAVSO – dynamic, multi-faceted and geographically diverse, encompassing many languages and cultures.

Part of the survey output from Survey Monkey included member data which reflected membership and observing status and locality, which was reflected by a town and zip code or postal code.   I asked the question, “What does the AAVSO look like in a world or global perspective?”  Instead of using data from the 691 responders to the AAVSO Demographic Survey of 2011, I thought it would be more enlightening to include all AAVSO Members and Observers worldwide.  I co-ordinated with Aaron and obtained a minimum of AAVSO database information to help capture the global breadth and scope of the AAVSO family.

A spreadsheet of 2598 members and observers from the AAVSO database was obtained.  This included all membership classes along with observers that have made at least one observation in the last five years.  Unfortunately, 133 members or observers listed no city, town, zip code or postal code.  Thus, the remaining 2465 data points were converted to latitude and longitude to the nearest 0.01 degrees manually using an Internet program (http://universimmedia.pagesperso-orange.fr/geo/loc.htm).  When no zip code or postal code was given, a town or city center was utilized.  Once the spreadsheet was finished, the latitudes and longitudes were entered into the mapping utility at www.geobatch.com.  The data was then validated, and after selecting “International” a world-wide Google Map was created.  After a few rounds of editing to correct “zingers” on the Google Map (usually from errors in the sign of the latitude and longitude values and erroneous conversions) a final version of a world-wide Google Map was saved and a Google Earth .kml file was created. 

Each Google Map teardrop represents an approximate location(s) of an AAVSO member or observer (no differentiation was made relative to member or observer status).  Clicking on the teardrop with given a generic address or location specific to that given latitude and longitude.  Zip and /or postal codes often reflect the geographic center of a given zip or postal code and this may be a few to many miles away from an individual’s true location.  This, along with not displaying one’s name or observer code, one’s location privacy has been maintained.  Also, there is no “bubble” rendering for multiple people within the same zip or postal code.  So one Google Map teardrop many represent one or many people.

I for one was amazed at the spatial distribution of our membership and observers from around the world.  Sixty six countries and entities on all continents except Antarctica are represented.  Besides the USA and Canada, observers and members from the UK and Europe were very prominent, as well as members and observers “down under” in Australia and New Zealand.   Members and observers in South America are also well represented.  Every individual member and observer everywhere is important and we honor you and your contributions.  The World Chess Federation, FIDE, has the motto of “Gens Una Sumus,” meaning “we are all one family.”  This motto could easily apply to the members and observers of the AAVSO.  Look at the world map and marvel at the size and extent of our extended AAVSO family. 

If you have not done so, please update your AAVSO profile with your personal and location information.  Our goal is capture each and every individual in our data base and world map.  Work is under way to display our member and observer location data in Google Earth.  Keep up the great work and clear skies!!!

Kevin B. Paxson - PKV

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 aavso@aavso.org 617-354-0484