American Association of Variable Star Observers

Since its founding in 1911,[1] the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) has coordinated, collected, evaluated, analyzed, published, and archived variable star observations made largely by amateur astronomers and makes the records available to professional astronomers, researchers, and educators. These records establish light curves depicting the variation in brightness of a star over time.

Since professional astronomers do not have the time or the resources to monitor every variable star, astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can make genuine contributions to scientific research.[2] During 2011, the 100th year of the AAVSO's existence, the 20-millionth variable star observation was received into the database.[3] The AAVSO International Database currently stores over 35 million observations.[4] The organization receives nearly 1,000,000 observations annually from around 2,000 professional and amateur observers and is quoted regularly in scientific journals.[5][6][7]

The AAVSO is also very active in education and public outreach. They routinely hold training workshops for citizen science and publish papers with amateurs as coauthors. In the 1990s, the AAVSO developed the Hands-On Astrophysics curriculum, now known as Variable Star Astronomy[8] (with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF)). In 2009, the AAVSO was awarded a three-year $800,000 grant from the NSF to run Citizen Sky,[9] a pro-am collaboration project examining the 2009-2011 eclipse of the star epsilon Aurigae.[10]

The current director of the AAVSO is Styliani ("Stella") Kafka, who took over from Arne Henden in February 2015. The previous director of the AAVSO for many decades was Janet Mattei, who died in March 2004 of leukemia.[11]

Twenty scientists, mostly men, standing for a group photograph in 1916.
AAVSO members in 1916, meeting at Harvard College Observatory. The two women in the photograph are Ida E. Woods (front row) and Annie Jump Cannon (behind Woods).

The AAVSO headquarters were originally located at the residence of its founder William T. Olcott in Norwich, Connecticut. After AAVSO's incorporation in 1918 it de facto moved to Harvard College Observatory, which later officially provided an office as the AAVSO headquarters (1931–1953).[12] After then it moved around Cambridge before purchasing their first building in 1985 - The Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center.[13] In 2007, the AAVSO purchased and moved into the recently vacated premises of Sky & Telescope magazine.[14]

Minor Planet (8900) AAVSO is named for the organization.[15]

Current and former membersEdit

Recorders and Directors
Other members

The AAVSO currently has over 2,000 members and observers, with approximately half of them from outside the United States. This list only consists of those with Wikipedia pages.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Saladyga, M. (1999). "The "Pre-Embryonic" State of the AAVSO: Amateur Observers of Variable Stars in the United States From 1875 to 1911". Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. 27 (2): 154–170. Bibcode:1999JAVSO..27..154S.
  2. ^ Ferris, T. (2003). Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe. Simon & Schuster. p. 54. ISBN 0-684-86580-7.
  3. ^ Simonsen, M. (February 23, 2011). "20 Million Observations by Amateur Astronomers". Universe Today. Retrieved 2011-05-16.
  4. ^ "35 million points and counting! |". Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  5. ^ Percy, J. R.; Desjardins, A.; Yu, L.; Landis, H. J. (2002). "Small Amplitude Red Variables in the AAVSO Photoelectric Program: Light Curves and Periods". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 108: 139. Bibcode:1996PASP..108..139P. doi:10.1086/133703.
  6. ^ Cannizzo, J. K. (2002). "The Accretion Disk Limit Cycle Model: Toward an Understanding of the Long-Term Behavior of SS Cygni". The Astrophysical Journal. 419: 318. Bibcode:1993ApJ...419..318C. doi:10.1086/173486.
  7. ^ Kiss, L. L.; Szatmáry, K.; Cadmus, R. R. Jr.; Mattei, J. A. (1999). "Multiperiodicity in semiregular variables. I. General properties". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 346: 542–555. arXiv:astro-ph/9904128. Bibcode:1999A&A...346..542K.
  8. ^ Variable Star Astronomy
  9. ^ "Citizen Sky". Archived from the original on 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Williams, T. R.; Willson, L. A. (2004). "Obituary: Janet Akyüz Mattei, 1943-2004". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society. 36 (5): 1681–1682. Bibcode:2004BAAS...36.1681W.
  12. ^ Williams, T. R.; Saladyga, M. (2011). Advancing Variable Star Astronomy - The Centennial History of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-51912-0.
  13. ^ Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center Archived 2006-12-31 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^
  15. ^ "(8900) AAVSO = 1995 UD2" (PDF). Minor Planet Circular. Minor Planet Center. 1 May 2003. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  16. ^ Dorrit Hoffleit "The Maria Mitchell Observatory: For Astronomical Research and Public Enlightenment" Journal of the American Association of Variable Star Observers Volume 30, 2001, p70, Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine where her photograph from 1930 appears.
  17. ^ AAVSO: Part Four: The AAVSO and International Cooperation
  18. ^ "John E. Bortle - 2013 Leslie Peltier Award". Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2014.

External linksEdit