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AAVSO activities fall into a few main categories: observing, data mining, analysis and other.  Below is a quick summary of each.
 

Observing - Point your eyes to the skies.

There are hundreds of thousands of variable stars observable from Earth. To properly study a star, one needs to follow it over a period of time. Astronomers simply don't have the resources to monitor them all. This is where you come in.

Observing a variable star is relatively simple. You basically compare the brightness of the variable star with that of nearby non-variable stars and then report that brightness to the AAVSO. This can be done with or without a telescope or binoculars. The easiest way to get started is by making observations with your eyes. However, more sophisticated measurements can be made with digital equipment such as DSLR or CCD cameras.

When you have made your first observations and are ready to report them, you need to have AAVSO Observer Initials (an observer code) so you may sumbit your observations to the AAVSO International Database. To ask for initials, create a free account on the AAVSO website (you will need this account to submit your observations, too) by clicking on the User Login button and following the instructions, and then clicking the box requesting initials. You will find instructions on submitting observations under the Observing tab.

Data Mining - Finding and Classifying Variables

Some people don't have access to a telescope or time at night to observe. Others prefer working with data rather than taking. If you fall into this category then data mining is the option for you. Using the multitude of surveys you can find new variables, classify existing variables, or discover something previously unknown all from the comfort of your house. Here are a few VSX specific projects to help you get started. 

 

 

Analysis - Research of One's Own

Professionals need amateurs to not only help monitor variable stars, but also to help study them. There are simply too many stars and too few professionals to fully explore the field of variable star science. As a result, over the past century our members have been involved in discovering new variable stars, categorizing discoveries, testing (and proposing) theories of variable star science, etc. The AAVSO has published a peer-reviewed journal since 1971 that consists mainly of papers written by our members. The journal is indexed in professional astronomy catalogs and carried by university libraries across the world.

Other - Explore the Full Spectrum of the Scientific Method

Approximately half of our members do not actively go out and observe variable stars. Instead, they contribute by applying their computers and skills in other areas (a.k.a. armchair astronomy). This is a form of citizen science we call citizen astronomy, because it is the only area of science where amateurs can contribute at such a high level. Observation is just one phase in the scientific process. There are lots of other ways to contribute scientifically.

Our recommendation is to click on the links on this page for some basic background on various topics. But don't go too deep. After you read the linked pages, come back here and check out some other links. This will give you a good overall view of what the AAVSO is all about. Then you can choose areas that most interest you.

You can:

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