Happy 110th Birthday to the AAVSO!
By Camille Pierson
CAMBRIDGE, MA –– November 18, 2021 | The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) celebrated its 110th anniversary in the first week of November. Cambridge City Councilors Patricia Nolan and Quinton Zondervan were in attendance and issued a proclamation on behalf of the Cambridge city mayor, Sumbul Siddiqui, in recognition of AAVSO’s many years of service to both Cambridge and the scientific community. “This is incredibly exciting because it’s actually pretty rare that non-profits last 110 years,” stated Councilor Nolan in her proclamation, “[Councilor Zondervan and I] offer our deep congratulations, and are totally psyched that [AAVSO] is in Cambridge, and wish you another 110 years.”
Councilor Zondervan also shared part of his own story and what he believes makes AAVSO so special, “The work that [AAVSO] does really impacted my life and I think a lot of people around the world.” Zondervan shared that he immigrated to the United States from Suriname at age 15. He describes the challenges of finding engaging and stimulating materials as a curious high schooler and how he developed a passion for learning about science. “And all of that scientific, intellectual stimulation helped me be more educated and get to the point where I could
move to Cambridge in 1992 and study at MIT,” said Zondervan, “And 30 years later, now serving as City Councilor, Stella [Kafka, AAVSO CEO] asked me earlier, what do I love about Cambridge… this is it! Having organizations like [AAVSO], in Cambridge–– that’s just amazing.”
For the past 110 years, AAVSO has been committed to its mission to “enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy” and, now more than ever, the AAVSO is putting that mission into practice. In the past couple years, AAVSO has launched new webinars, developed workshops, and increased its outreach, with the goal of increasing the accessibility of scientific knowledge.
Executive Director, Dr. Stella Kafka, addressed the crowd, reflecting on her time at AAVSO, “For me, being at the helm of the AAVSO for the last seven years, which looks like a drop in the lake, has been an extremely humbling experience…being around so many brilliant individuals whose passion and whose personal mission was to advance science.”
Kafka also extends her gratitude to the many individuals involved in making the past 110 years possible, “I am extremely grateful to all of you for being the core of the AAVSO, for your support, and for your relationship with this organization. For building a community. No matter what your background is professionally, whether or not you are getting paid to do astronomy, you are an integral part of this organization. And we’re all really grateful for that. We wouldn’t be here without you.”
This year’s lineup of keynote speakers joined AAVSO’s celebration from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and British Columbia Institute of Technology to share their exciting research. Prof. Sara Seager (introduced as the "Exoplanet Queen”) presented “TESS Exoplanets and Beyond," and her presentation, along with Andrea Dupree’s "The Mysterious Great Dimming of Betelgeuse,” David Latham’s "Spectroscopy of Eclipsing Binaries and Brown Dwarfs Identified by TESS,” and Barry Pointon’s “Neutrinos: The Other Way Stars Shine,” can all be found on AAVSO’s YouTube channel, along with the many other speakers from this year’s celebration. A complete schedule of the celebration can be found on AAVSO’s website.
The AAVSO extends its sincere gratitude to everyone who has been a part of the AAVSO community and looks forward to many more years of variable star astronomy.
AAVSO Communications Manager