AAVSO 2023 How-to Webinars


See what Boyce-Astro can do for you!


Each webinar provides instruction on a different astronomy-related activity or topic!

Join us in these Zoom webinars to learn from guest expert instructors, ask questions, and meet others with the same interest! The audience-driven nature of the Q&A leads to some quite extensive discussions, so there is no set cut-off time for the majority of these sessions.

Any cost? No, they are free to encourage your astronomy education!

When: The first Saturday of each month* in 2023

2 p.m. Eastern Time (19:00 UTC from January through March, 18:00 UTC from April through October, and 19:00 UTC in December). 

* Please note the exception: A webinar will take place Oct. 28 instead of Nov. 4 due to our Annual Meeting.

Where: You can view the schedule of speakers and register for these free webinars in our interactive calendar.

Our next webinar:

All About AAVSO Sections: CVs, Exoplanets, PEP, & YSOs

June 10 at 18:00 UT (2:00 PM Eastern) - Register for the Webinar

In this special webinar, we will spotlight the leaders of four of our Sections. If you’re interested in any of these topics:

  • Cataclysmic Variables
  • Exoplanets
  • Photoelectric Photometry
  • Young Stellar Objects

then this webinar is for you!

Dr. Brian Kloppenborg, the AAVSO’s Executive Director, will be our host. Joining him will be four of our talented volunteer Section Leaders: Shawn Dvorak, Dr. Dennis Conti, Tom Calderwood, & Mike Poxon.

This is a perfect opportunity to learn about Sections: what are they, and what benefits can you get from joining one? Join us this June 10th to find out for yourself!


Watch the recordings of our past How-to webinars on YouTube!

May 6 @ 18:00 UT (2 p.m. ET) How to do variable star outreach  video coming soon

Webinar Description: Join us for a How-To all about variable star outreach! We’ll begin with a talk by Gary Hawkins, sharing how he uses real-time photometry for “sidewalk astronomy”-style outreach. Next, Patrick Kavanagh will share how he created an educational spectroscopy course in order to introduce his astronomy club to the wonders of the stars. Finally, we’ll wrap up with an extended interactive Q&A session, so that you can get advice on how to do variable star outreach yourself!


"Demonstrating Real-time Photometry" by Gary Hawkins

The demonstration of real-time photometry to astronomers and the public offers a powerful and seldom-seen outreach opportunity. This talk describes the equipment and software used to provide such demonstrations at the Julian StarFest, Julian CA in August 2022. Real-time light curve plots were provided on a large screen monitor of the U Wma variable, V796 Cep. With a period of 9.43119 hours, it was possible to see the divergence between the V796 Cep and the comparison star light curves in relatively short order. Members of the public were fascinated by the thought of two stars orbiting each other in such close proximity, and that amateur astronomers could make meaningful contributions to the scientific world.

"Spectroscopy Outreach in Astronomy Club" by Patrick Kavanagh

My hands-on introductory course in Astronomical Spectroscopy covered the history of spectroscopy from Fraunhofer on, and took a look at each Spectral Class, O, B, A, F, G, K, and M, with sample easy-to-find stars. I covered techniques for using a Diffraction Grating with a Canon DSLR camera, and ran a data reduction workshop using the RSpec software.

Meet the instructors:

Gary Hawkins spent most of his career in the telecommunications industry, facilitating the design and build of mobile phone networks worldwide. However, Gary loves to experiment with new projects; most notably, he’s run a fitness company, written two books, participates in HAM Radio competitions, and since retirement, is an avid astronomer. About four years ago, he became a visual observer using a secondhand Orion XT8 dob, quickly moved to Electronically Assisted Astronomy, and then, after taking an exoplanet course, now focuses on photometry. Gary is a CMOS photometry mentor for the AAVSO, a Member of the San Diego Astronomy Association, and holds a Ph.D. In Satellite Communications from the University of Bristol, England.

Patrick Kavanagh was born in Philadelphia, and has been a Mexican resident since 1972. He’s an active member in the Centro Astronómico Clavius, and he took a course in astrophotography at Iberoamericana University in 2018. In June 2020, he began practicing low resolution diffraction grating spectroscopy. He assisted with the 2020 AAVSO Spectroscopy Workshop, and joined the AAVSO, through which he received training in photometry. In June 2022, he founded the Copernicus Club, where he offers weekly talks. From October to December 2022, he gave a spectroscopy course to the Copernicus Club.

April 29, 2023 How to [model isochrones using images of star clusters]   video coming soon

Webinar Description: Star clusters have been described as ideal astrophysical "laboratories" because differences between the stars within them can be attributed completely to variations in initial mass. Students are drawn in by the alluringly beautiful images of the clusters and are excited to construct lovely color images of them. This in turn motivates them to learn about some of the (equally stunning!) physics that can be revealed by the colors in their image. It is a rewarding marriage of art and science!

Meet the presenter: Kalée Tock earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Harvard University, and an M.S. from the Stanford University Department of Chemistry. She then earned a second Master's degree in Learning, Design, and Technology from the Stanford School of Education. She has been a science instructor at Stanford Online High School for 11 years, teaching Astronomy for the most recent 6 of those years. She now teaches three different Astronomy courses there: Astrophysics, Astrobiology, and an Astronomy Research Seminar.

April 1, 2023 How to [use AAVSOnet to remotely observe variable stars]

Webinar Description: AAVSOnet is a global network of remote telescopes which any AAVSO member can use! With observatories in every hemisphere, and telescopes ranging from 4" to 24" in size, AAVSOnet gives AAVSO members the ability to collect precision photometry of almost any star brighter than 18th magnitude. In this webinar, we'll begin with a tutorial showing you how to use AAVSOnet to get data of your own targets, presented by AAVSO Board Member Dr. Arne Henden. Next, we'll hear from three top users of AAVSOnet, each with an example of an exciting project you can tackle using AAVSOnet. Finally, we'll wrap up with a Q&A session, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and receive advice from the experts. If you're not familiar with AAVSOnet, and want to learn a bit about it before the webinar, visit aavso.org/aavsonet

The presenters:

Dr. Arne Henden has been the driving force behind AAVSOnet since its founding in 2005, and personally oversaw the commissioning of many of its telescopes. There's no better person to ask about the ins and outs of AAVSOnet!

Enrique Boeneker, has spent three years using AAVSOnet to study AS Cas, a multimode classical Cepheid.

Frank Schorr continually uses AAVSOnet to monitor a wide selection of long period variables, including W Cas and T Cep.

Phil Sullivan has spent several years using AAVSOnet to study a number of variable stars close to NGC 7790.

March 4, 2023 How to [Automate Your Rig: A panel discussion]

Webinar Description: Are you tired of babysitting your telescope? This webinar is for you! In this hour-long panel discussion, we will discuss both the big picture (“What do I need to set up a remote observatory?”) and the minutiae (“Will X software support Y camera?”). Conversation will center on the question at the forefront of everyone’s minds: “How can I set my telescope up for automatic photometry?” This will be a highly interactive event, with lots of opportunities to ask questions. Come prepared by thinking up your best questions ahead of time!

Our panel includes four leading experts on observatory automation:

Peter Bealo, leader of the AAVSO Instrumentation & Equipment Section, and an experienced amateur astronomer.

Stefan Berg, creator of N.I.N.A., a free and open-source software for automating telescopes, observatories, and accessories.

Bob Denny, originator of the ASCOM Initiative, and developer of the automation software ACP Expert, whose AI scheduler is used by the AAVSO Photometric All-Sky Survey (APASS) to automatically observe a thousand square degrees per night.

Alan Sliski, an inventor who consults for advanced amateur astronomers, conducting observatory design and automation.

February 4, 2023 How to [compare DSLR, CCD, and CMOS cameras for photometry] with instructor Mark de Jong

Webinar Description: The discussion will be catered to an audience who is familiar with acquiring images and the basics of image calibration using bias, dark and flat frames. MaximDL will be used for analysis of the images that will be used in this session, and VPHOT for the photometry.

In this webinar, Mark will compare the basic characteristics of DSLR, CCD and CMOS cameras for stellar photometry by analyzing a set of images of T Cep taken with each type of camera on the same telescope. The emphasis will be on the practical consequences of the different characteristics: noise, resolution, sensitivity, etc.

The T Cep images were taken over several years, as Mark moved from one camera to the next. He will also mention some quirks and challenges he has encountered over the years while learning to use these cameras.

Meet your instructor: Mark de Jong (AAVSO observer DJX) took his first, and only, astronomy course at university more than 50 years ago. However, he did not start actively observing until 2006, with variable stars as his main interest. After contributing over 1,000 visual observations on Long-period variables (LPVs), he moved on to DSLR, CCD, and then CMOS cameras for photometry, while continuing to primarily observe LPVs. Recently, he has served as an AAVSO Mentor for new DSLR and CMOS observers. He has a background in the physics of particle accelerators and has worked in government laboratories, universities, and the private industry.

January 7, 2023 How to [Observe Variable Stars with Binoculars] with instructor Sherrill Shaffer

Webinar Description: Visual observing is an easy way to make a valuable contribution to science, even if you don't have much time or can't afford a telescope. There are hundreds of variable stars visible to the naked eye, and tens of thousands visible with binoculars, meaning that you'll never run out of fascinating targets to keep an eye on.

A few of the topics we'll cover:

  • Why should you make visual observations of variable stars?
  • Which variable stars should you observe?
  • How to get and use charts
  • How to make an estimate of your target’s brightness
  • How to record and report your observations
  • What's the best observing cadence?
  • Equipment for observing
  • Tips & tricks for better observing

Meet your instructor: Sherrill Shaffer has contributed more than 24,000 visual observations to the AAVSO’s database, most of them using binoculars. He also plays an important role in AAVSO’s data validation process and is an AAVSO Mentor to other visual observers. Shaffer's Ph.D. is from Stanford University, and he has held affiliations with the Federal Reserve, the University of Wyoming, and the Australian National University. He is a retired economist who has been an amateur astronomer for more than 30 years, and an active variable star observer since 2009.