MEMBERSHIP & DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
Mike Simonsen joined the AAVSO, as an observer, in 1998 after retiring from the music business. He'd been keenly interested in astronomy since youth, but playing saxophone, flute, and piano in smoky nightclubs and concert halls until the wee hours of the morning precluded doing any serious observing for decades.
Also a highly regarded landscape designer, Mike began amassing thousands of visual observations at night while designing and building landscapes by day, sometimes showing up to work with little or no sleep at all. "I guess you could say I had my hands and knees in the dirt, but my heart and head in the stars". As his passion for variable star science grew, so did Mike's involvement with the AAVSO in numerous volunteer efforts.
An animated and enthusiastic speaker, Mike has given dozens of talks on various aspects of variable star science to astronomy clubs, planetaria, star parties and university groups.
In the spring of 2005, Mike received the AAVSO Director's Award in recognition of his many contributions to the AAVSO. In the fall of 2005, Mike was elected to his first term on the AAVSO Council, where he served as councilor and officer until 2010.
In November 2007, Mike was hired by the AAVSO Director as the organization's first full time Development Director. Mike is charged with raising funds to ensure the security of the organization's endowments as well as the continuity and growth of the valuable services, programs and staff of the AAVSO.
In October 2011, Mike was awarded the Charles Butterworth Award from the BAA Variable Star Section "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of charts and sequences."
In July 2012, Simonsen received the Leslie Peltier Award from the Astronomical League at the AL Convention in Chicago, Illinois for "his valuable variable star observations, leadership and support of amateur participation in astronomy, and variable star research."
In 2015 the American Astronomical Society named Simonsen recipient of the Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award for his research on Z Cam stars which “promises to have a long-lasting impact on the field of accretion-disk theory."
Main belt asteroid 367732 is named Mikesimonsen in his honor.
Mike's observatory houses two 12" LX200 telescopes, one for visual use and one for CCD observations, or as Mike likes to joke, "One for each eye!" Mike, his wife Irene, and their six cats live in the Michigan countryside, in a house overlooking a small lake, surrounded by horse pastures and cornfields. In his spare time, Mike enjoys maintaining their extensive perennial gardens, barbecuing, reading, writing, and obsessing over his fantasy football teams with his son, Jan.