AAVSO’s Annual Spectroscopy Workshop Broadens the Horizons of Citizen Science

PRESS RELEASE: AAVSO’s Annual Spectroscopy Workshop Broadens the Horizons of Citizen Science

CAMBRIDGE, MA, November 15, 2021 | The American Association for Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) completed hosting a citizen science-focused Spectroscopy Workshop as part of the AAVSO 110th anniversary celebration at the 110th Annual Meeting. Spectroscopy––the study of how matter interacts with electromagnetic radiation––is a fundamental part of observational astronomy. AAVSO board member, Ken Hudson, and his team developed a program to engage citizen scientists with a wide range of experience. AAVSO is thrilled with how this workshop has grown over time, and the opportunities it offers for amateur astronomers to actively participate in the scientific community.












“In 2018, my friends, Joe Daglen and François Cochard, and I organized the first spectroscopy workshop in the mountains of
Southern New Mexico at Joe's house with 20 attendees,” says Hudson. “In 2019 we expanded to … 81 attendees. In 2020, the
AAVSO took over sponsorship of the workshop …. This year, we have 107 attendees.” Citizen science has been a
long-standing tradition at AAVSO. Since its founding in 1911, AAVSO has striven to enable people of any background to
participate in amateur astronomy and contribute to the body of scientific knowledge. This Spectroscopy Workshop does
exactly that.

“Spectroscopic monitoring of variable stars is a relatively unexplored domain within amateur astronomy, with the potential to

produce a wealth of new information,” says Dr. Stella Kafka, Executive Director at AAVSO. “With the advancement of technology and instrumentation, amateur astronomers are now purchasing and operating spectrographs, able to contribute their data to science. At the same time, amateurs need the background to understand the complexities of their instrumentation, the principles of data acquisition, and steps for data reduction and recovery of information from a spectrum.”











This year, AAVSO received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Spectroscopy Workshop, and
celebrates over 100 attendees. The workshop taught skills like how to use spectroscopy as a tool for astronomy, how to collect
spectroscopic data, and how to reduce and share this data with the international variable star research community through the

AAVSO’s Spectroscopy Database (AVSpec). Participants gained hands-on experience with relevant instrumentation and data reduction software. Funds were also secured for the workshop participation of 12 high school teachers from all over the US. AAVSO hopes to enable these teachers to incorporate spectroscopy into their curriculum. “I hope that people leave inspired and motivated to try astronomical spectroscopy,” says Hudson. “I also wanted participants to understand that they are part of an international community, and the community is helpful and supportive.”











The spectroscopy workshop took place at the Row Hotel in Somerville, MA, and was accessible online for participants unable
to make it in person. The
schedule can be found online. Though enrollment is now closed, those interested in spectroscopy can
look forward to educational videos from the workshop that will be posted to
AAVSO’s YouTube channel in weeks following
the workshop.



The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) is an international scientific and educational nonprofit
organization of amateur and professional astronomers who are interested in stars that change in brightness—variable stars. Its
mission is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy. For more
information, visit www.aavso.org.



Lindsay Ward

AAVSO Communications Manager


Office: +1 (617) 354-0484 x 100



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