The 98th Annual Meeting of the AAVSO
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Newton, Massachusetts
November 5-7, 2009
From the Director:
Director's Report (pdf) - Dr. Arne A. Henden
Final meeting schedule (pdf)
Scientific Paper Session Talks - pdf files of the talks are included if available
Advanced CCD Observing Techniques (pdf) - Dr. Arne A. Henden
Merit Award, William Tyler Olcott Award, Special Recognition Awards
Keynote speaker Steve Howell and avid observer Patrick McDonald share their meeting memories.
A Personal View of the AAVSO Annual Meeting
Dr. Steve B. Howell, NOAO, Tuscon, AZ
The AAVSO has always impressed me. When I was a young observer in Western Pennsylvania, the AAVSO, with its star charts, variable star literature, telescope making notes, and personal contact, was one of my favorite pastimes. Later, during college the AAVSO was again ready to help with more detailed information and suggestions as to variables in need of observation and what science was to be gained from the work. And during my professional career as an astronomer, the AAVSO has always been ready and willing to run campaigns and to put their members to work to gather observations highly related and critical to a Hubble or x-ray or large ground-based project.
At the 2009 annual meeting held recently in Newton, MA, the AAVSO once again surprised and impressed me. The meeting was a showroom of advanced thinking, technology, and project leadership in astronomical observing. The level of observational science being undertaken and the level of experience and instrumentation being employed was incredible. The base of information and detail the AAVSO has always been known for remains but the advances in use of technical equipment and astronomical procedures are present as well. The organization is truly multifaceted, organized, and starting to provide enormous database information on a variety of large, astronomically precise and highly useful large observational programs.
The AAVSO meetings are always fun in terms of who you happen to talk to - members showing off their observatories and equipment, putting some professional equipment to shame, members telling of their "day job" but becoming highly effusive when they tell you of their night work, and members who work enthusiastically to inform and educate the public about astronomy. There is never a dull moment. This meeting also introduced me to the new AAVSO, the organization which has modernized itself, raised itself to a highly educated level, and moved into many new observational directions.
I have always had the greatest respect for the AAVSO and its members. They are the greatest observers I know and they have always been. Now they have earned my respect again in others ways. Director Arne Henden, long time friend and colleague, should be very proud of what he has accomplished with the organization, clearly the hard work and effort of many headquarters personnel and members alike. The AAVSO is a modern astronomical force which will remain an incredible resource for astronomical research but will also be a source of new and valuable unique research work provided by their own members to be placed alongside of the professionals. The boundary in these outdated terms is indeed fuzzier then ever. I look forward to many more years of continued work and collaboration with the AAVSO.
Patrick McDonald (MDP), Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Just as there are lifetime religious pilgrimages, every variable star observer should make an effort to attend at least one AAVSO Annual Meeting. I finally got around to it after almost three decades.
I confess that it was the prospect of my receiving an Observer Award certificate that added that extra push. Plus of course getting to see headquarters and meeting the people I'd communicated with over so many years. I couldn't believe they still had some of my old report sheets on file. The excellent food didn't hurt either. My vanity, however, was soon humbled when I saw how far our Calling has advanced over the years. AAVSO members now routinely carry out work that even professionals in major observatories could not have achieved 20 years ago. The CCD chip has to a large extent eliminated the bias of the biological foibles of the human eye. We compass the passage of alien planets across their star's brilliant faces. Perhaps most of all, the robotic telescopes seem poised to tally large numbers of observations, almost unbelievable in quality as well as quantity. Thanks to the far-reaching arm of the internet much of these data can be analyzed by amateurs thousands of miles away from the actual observatories.
Although this is excellent news for the science of variable observing, it has a shadow side. It seemed to me that the period of the visual telescopic observer's major contribution is coming to an end as a result of all these innovations. Don't get me wrong. I was glad to have made such a contribution when I did; they were exciting days. But the sun is setting on them. Perhaps we will find a niche for such observations in these new times. I certainly hope so. It is to the younger members, and/ or those proficient in the new technologies, however, to continue the advances. I wish them well. As Captain Picard put it, "Let's see what's out there!"