By Dr. Urmila Chadayammuri
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Oct. 20, 2021)—Steven Shore looks like Gandalf decided to retire from magic and move into a cozy apartment in Pisa with a dog and as many books as his walls could contain. “You can’t tell,” he tells me over Zoom, although I kind of can, “but the only thing I have for furniture is bookcases.”
Except that this wizard hasn’t retired from magic at all. Shore has worked on dramatic objects—novae, cataclysmic variables, and active stars, throughout his career. And he has been sharing the wonder from the very start. He was one of the first Shapley lecturers in the early 1980s— “when I was knee high to a cockroach” —and wrote a textbook about hydrodynamics with the Academic Press shortly after. His next book, The Tapestry of Modern Astrophysics, aims to explain all of astronomy in a single tome.
At every step, process has mattered to him as much as content and reach. He worked with Academic Press, for example, because they agreed to all his terms. “I wanted the book to be on
acid-free paper, cheap enough that students would be able to buy it at an absolute fixed price. And they had to agree that I would not take royalties.”
Today, when Shore is not teaching and advising students at the University of Pisa and INAF, he is usually editing for Astronomy and Astrophysics. Before joining A&A, he served as editor for publications such as The Astrophysical Journal and publishing houses like Springer-Verlag, Academic Press, Wiley, and Nature.
The beauty of Shore joining the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), now as leader of the Observational Spectroscopy Section, is that the organization was a huge part of his introduction to astronomy. He grew up in New York City, “where seeing a star is a rare event.” He started out as an amateur astronomer, and the AAVSO newsletters were his primary resource. The relationship continued when he went professional, with AAVSO providing the finding charts for his first observing run, which looked at cataclysmic variables.
As coordinator of the spectroscopic group, Shore will “serve as a consultant and resource for the amateur community.” He will write the same newsletters he learned from as a young amateur, and revise web pages to better explain the various physical processes involved in studying variable stars. He is also eager to advocate for the amateur community at the International Astronomical Union (IAU), where he has served on numerous committees, including Education, Heritage and Outreach. Working with the IAU, he says, “gives us a chance to encourage the community, to serve as their voice among those who are academics.”
Dr. Stella Kafka, the Executive Director and CEO of AAVSO, enthusiastically welcomes Steve Shore to his new role: “We are delighted to welcome Prof. Shore to the AAVSO leadership. His knowledge, experience and enthusiasm are valuable assets for our team; we are looking forward to his contributions to our community!
Ultimately, what Shore is most passionate about is bridging the perceived divide between amateurs and professional astronomers. “When you distinguish between an amateur and a professional, you are classifying them by how they get paid, not by how they think.” A key part of closing this gap, he thinks, is being more demanding of citizen scientists. Clicking through images, or collecting observations, is part of the scientific process, but the beautiful part is synthesizing an understanding of a deeper concept, a bigger picture, from the observations. “To get somebody to start asking questions of their own—that's real science.” And that is what he hopes to facilitate with the AAVSO community.
More information on the AAVSO Spectroscopy Observing section can be found here: https://www.aavso.org/spectroscopy-observing-section
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.
AAVSO Communications Manager
Office: +1 (617) 354-0484 x 100