It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of long time AAVSO observer and supporter Mike Simonsen (SXN) on the 11th of July. While Mike had not been actively involved with the AAVSO since ~ 2017 his many contributions will have a long lasting impact.
Mike in his ~ 20 years as an observing member served as a AAVSO Staff Member for many of those years (both as unpaid and paid) with his last position being that of Membership Director and Development Officer. In addition, Mike served as Chairman of the Cataclysmic Variable Section, the Long Period Variables Section and The Sequence Team (as well as several of it’s prior incarnations) at various times during his long association. At one time Mike also served as coordinator of the AAVSO Mentor Program and Administrator of the AAVSO’s Choice Program, the Speakers Bureau, Writers Bureau and the AAVSO Facebook Page.
Mike served two terms on the AAVSO Council (2005-2009). Among his many awards were the AAVSO Directors Award (2005), The BAA Charles Butterworth Award (2011), the Astronomical League’s Leslie C. Peltier Award (2012) and the American Astronomical Society’s Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award (2015).
Mike was also the author and co-author of numerous papers (~50), many of which were published in the AAVSO Journal.
One of the greatest impacts that Mike had on our organization was his contributions to the evolution of how Charts and sequences are made. Mike was both mine and Tom Bretl’s Mentor on Chart Development and Sequencing.
The Sequence Team recently received the following remarks from Arne Henden:
I "met" Mike in the 1990's, when he, I and Bruce Sumner formed a team to create new charts for most of the popular CVs. I acquired the photometry, Bruce created the sequences, and Mike drew the charts. This morphed into a larger discussion about creating sequences for all of the stars on the AAVSO program and resulted in the formation of the international chart working group, where I finally got to meet Mike in person at one of its meetings. I had many nights at the telescope (things weren't robotic in those days!) where Mike and I would chat via email. He would be visually estimating the brightness of some CV at the same time as I was acquiring CCD data on the same star. Mike's estimates would always be within 0.1mag of my photometry, which really impressed this professional!
Mike changed the character of how charts were made at the AAVSO; just one small part of his impact on the organization. I will miss him greatly!
Mike was a close friend of mine and I too miss him.
Ad Astra, Mike
I am truly saddened and shedding a tear. Mike was such a friend and mentor and a dedicated supporter of the AAVSO as a volunteer and staff member. He helped me be a much better observer and photometrist, especially with those tough 'double trouble' variables! He got the VPhot Choice Course started and allowed me to carry that on. Thanks, Mike. Always!!
To really get a good understanding of Mike's many activities and contributions within the AAVSO simply enter his name, Mike Simonsen
into our website Search Box.
Today is Mike Simonsen's funeral. Tim, Ken and Gordon have given some of Mike's history with the AAVSO. For those who have not been with the AAVSO for very long, do the website search as suggested, and read some of the citations for his various awards. I knew him from his early chart days, followed by his participation on the AAVSO Council/Board, his employment at the AAVSO and beyond, interacting with him on a daily basis for many of those years. Looking back, it is very difficult to condense a long friendship into a few short paragraphs, and so I won't attempt to try. Others will have unique remembrances and can tell their stories far better than I can! We oughta get together at the Fall meeting and swap tales.
I'm a nerd and an introvert, and kinda thought all astronomers were this way. When I first met Mike in person, I thought that I'd found someone who was my polar opposite! Energetic and gregarious, he approached every task with razor focus. Chart-making showed this focus. He got interested in observing cataclysmic variables, and found that the existing charts were difficult to use, sometimes mis-identified the targets, and seldom had good sequences. So he set out to correct the situation, and ended up being a key person in the development of charts under both Janet and myself.
Unlike me, Mike completed a task and then moved on to the next. He was particularly proud that he read and responded to all of his email by early morning. He was not afraid of taking on tasks that others avoided, if they needed to be done. A good example of this was his role as Development Officer. Fundraising is something that did not come easy to me, nor to others on the Council. Mike raised his hand and offered to do the job, because funding the AAVSO was essential, and we couldn't afford a professional fundraiser. This meant that he was in everyone's face, doing the "ask", and had to learn on the fly, with some mistakes and many successes along the way. Another was arranging the 100th anniversary celebration in collaboration with Rebecca. He was the M.C. for many of the events.
Mike always wanted to make things fun. He did not hesitate to try new things, or visit unusual restaurants. Food was a big thing in his mind, and he often talked about opening a restaurant some day. Remember Simochick, or Simoastronomy, or Slacker Astronomy? Only a few of you know about the Sacred Napkin, but I have it archived. He had at least three careers, with music performance, landscaping and astronomy as cornerstones. I never got him to play the sax, but he did play the office piano on some trips. He gave Linda some pointers on the Residence landscaping. He was always interested in cars (probably due to his father's work in Detroit), and was into muscle cars for the last decade. I regret not seeing his Corvette!
There was always some friction, as expected with differing personalities. Mike was stubborn, and got frustrated if you didn't agree with him or want to go along with some new project. To his credit, he would drop his opposition and support you 100%, once he had made his point and you showed him the logic of yours. However, I could never get him to move cv-net to the AAVSO domain.
I hope that we have many more volunteers that love the AAVSO as much as Mike did, and continue supporting it into the future!
My first real involvement with Mike came when I joined the Sequence Team and found myself
working for/with Mike who was the team leader. I knew absolutely nothing about sequences. This began a rewarding
relationship that lasted several years. Mike taught, guided, cajoled,and sometimes
demanded team performance. He made working on the Sequence Team a very positive and rewarding experience.
Mike was a dedicated amateur astronomer, a skilled amateur photometrist, an innovator and a leader. He served the
AAVSO ably and loyally. He left his finger prints on the AAVSO and variable star observing.
Over the years, I had occasion to meet and correspond with him. I found him to be an interesting guy and somewhat of a character.
Mike didn't suffer fools well so it was important that he didn't consider you a fool A thoroughly enjoyable fellow.
I was saddened to hear of his passing. He was taken from us at far too young an age. He will be missed.
Impossible not to agree with the previous comments. Mike's legacy will stay with us because he helped us get to where we currently are.
I also remember how frustrating it was using the old charts with inconsistent magnitudes (I actually stopped reporting my data to the AAVSO because of that many many years ago) and how he decided to do something about it.
He helped me become an AAVSO staff member and was there to welcome me in my first visit to the US sixteen years ago (time flies!). His simo-hugs were unforgettable (and I used to be a thin person...).
It was nice working with him those years. He will be missed :(
I'm very sorry for Mike's passing. I've been in contact (by e-mail) with him several times and he's always shown to be a very kind person.
Mission accomplished here on Earth. Now Mike is closer to the stars
Amen to what everyone has said about Mike. As a fellow Mike, I always found him something of a kindred spirit - maybe not your usual (to quote Arne) nerd! He was crucial in getting my 'baby' the YSO section, off the ground. When Mike and his wife (with whom I had had a coffee-drinking competition earlier!) flew home early from the 2002 meeting in Hawaii they bequeathed me their room and whatever was in their fridge.
Aha Mike... NOW we know why SS Cyg is doing all that weird stuff, it's you isn't it? Go on Simonsen, admit it!