Solis McCain and Nolan Sottoway plotted their light curve data using AAVSO's VStar software. (Image from their presentation,
"Photometric Observations of XX Cygni" with Rich Berry at AAVSO's 109th Annual Meeting, November 15, 2020. You can
view their presentation, which begins at video time 1:46:33).
To my fellow astronomy enthusiast,
Last summer, I mentored two students at the Pine Mountain Observatory Summer Student Workshop. But this year, with COVID restrictions in place, we had an oxymoron: a remote hands-on observing project!
With the aid of the AAVSO, the students had immediate access to charts of comparison stars and lots of material about observing. They completed their study by submitting their data to AAVSO, an organization that verifies and curates such data into databases
for use by professional astronomers.
This assurance that our work becomes available to anyone, professional or not, who needs it—is crucial in the motivation we all need to pursue our astronomical passions. And that's what the AAVSO means to me: through the AAVSO, each and every one of us can
make a real contribution to astronomy.
Over the course of the workshop, my students and I met, discussed, and observed via Zoom sessions. This sounds a bit crazy, but it worked. The kids operated my telescope remotely, and watched images come in and get saved to Dropbox. Each night yielded 2,000
to 2,500 new images. The next morning, Nolan, one of the students, extracted magnitudes from the images, and the other student, Sol, plotted the numbers and derived the times of maximum light. In the end, they determined 23 accurate times of maximum light.
My two students prepared a talk for the other kids at the summer workshop, but the real thrill was giving an oral presentation at the 2020 AAVSO 109th Annual Meeting. In a year when everything was distanced and remote, the AAVSO supported Nolan and Sol in making
their contribution to astronomy real and immediate. Your AAVSO membership dues are important. Whether you are an observer or not, please either become
a member or renew your membership today—your dues support the AAVSO providing the tools, opportunities, and encouragement that enable each of us to make a real contribution to astronomy.
AAVSO 2nd Vice President