Daniel P. Loring
AAVSO Mentoring Program
As Jeremy Knowles' story shows, mentoring can make all the difference! If you are interested in being a mentor or being mentored, please contact the AAVSO.
In high school I found that scientific observation was a way to cope with adolescent turbulence. Memorizing the value of pi to 58 decimal places, I guess I felt I had a tiny handle on nature's mystery. Classifying over a thousand sunspots, I must have imagined I understood them better. Charting a "cork-screw meteor", I fancied I was some sort of cub reporter with a scoop.
Trying a few small telescopes, I settled on a 3" Skyscope reflector. I had no dark sky site, just our backyard in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Especially in tourist season, light pollution was considerable. Still, I filed regular American Meteor Society reports. Most observations were unspectacular. Never did I see another "cork-screw", and long-enduring trains were scarce.
The AAVSO offered a much broader range of phenomena: novae, Miras, irregulars, semiregulars, eclipsers, Cepheids, sunspots, etc. On 13 June 1949, five days after graduating from high school, I made my first observation for the Association. I put Beta Lyrae at magnitude 3.5. On succeeding nights, I added Delta Cephei and Chi Cygni to my list. In that first month, I garnered 13 observations. I was on my way.
My hobby took on a social dimension, too. Friends came over to my "star parties" for eclipses and other celestial events. In the fall of 1949, Margaret Mayall began mentoring a friend and me. We had the run of headquarters charts, and the 6" Post telescope in the dome atop the old Building A at Harvard College Observatory (HCO). We volunteered to operate larger telescopes for the public on Open Nights.
Over four years we also did various paying jobs for Drs. Shapley, Bok, and Whipple. My friend became an astronomy professor. I became a pastor. I continue to listen and watch as the heavens "declare the glory of God."
I remain an amateur, a lover. My coping has been reinforced with caring.