Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 57

Pro-Am Conjunction by Diana Hannikainen

W At the AAVSO's annual meeting held in November 1918, Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta
S. Leavitt, and Edward C. Pickering (clustered
in the second and third rows at center) were
among those in attendance.

A Century and Counting
of Variable Stars
Have a hankering to get involved in research? Join the AAVSO.

A AVSO

H

undreds of years ago, the line
between professional and amateur
astronomers was fuzzy. Think of the
great William Herschel. A musician and
composer by training, he became fascinated with astronomy, built telescopes,
and made discoveries still discussed
today (such as the planet Uranus).
By the 1800s, growing demand for
larger, more costly light-collecting mirrors went hand in hand with an increasingly rarefied environment of participation. Astronomy began closing itself off
from those outside of professional circles
- a trend compounded in the 20th
century with the advent of satellites and
ever-larger telescopes atop mountains.
Professionals largely work in academia,
while amateurs peer at the heavens from
their backyards. Rarely the twain meet.
However, some astronomers on both
sides work to bridge this gap. These
intrepid individuals and organizations
think that pros and ams have a lot to
offer each other. In this new bimonthly
column, we'll explore many kinds of
pro-am collaborations. We hope that
their examples will inspire you to join
in - because science at its heart is DIY.
Our First Guest: the AAVSO. By the
second half of the 19th century, pros had

trouble keeping up with the data streaming in due to newly developed observing
techniques, such as photography and
spectroscopy. Institutes increasingly
relied on the amateur community for
observations of variable stars. Answering
a call in the August 1911 issue of Popular
Astronomy entitled "What an Amateur
Can Do," lawyer and amateur astronomer William Tyler Olcott founded the
American Association of Variable Star
Observers (AAVSO) in November that
year - and it's still going strong today.
AAVSO's mission is to "enable
anyone, anywhere, to participate in
scientific discovery through variable star
astronomy." Its primary treasure is a
vast database of long-term light curves,
which trace the brightening and fading
of various variable stars back more than
a century. Amateurs provide the majority of these data. Knowing the long-term
variability of stars enables astronomers
to put episodic patterns or snapshot
observations into larger context. Long
baselines are also essential for making
predictions of interesting behaviors.
The professional-amateur interface. Pros nowadays are stretched too
thin between too many specialized
projects and scrabbling over dwindling

resources. Those shiny behemoths atop
mountains? Many researchers only get a
few hours total of observing time. Luckier ones might get a couple of nights.
Hence, professional analyses are often
based on a smattering of datapoints,
which can lead to ambiguity. But the
universe is dynamic. The only way we'll
catch its surprises is with programs such
as those championed by the AAVSO.
Also, since there are only so many
nights per year, and so many projects to
fulfill, the large telescopes are mainly
reserved for cutting-edge science, pushing the envelope on faint and distant
targets. In this competition, brighter
sources can lose out. When Betelgeuse
curiously dimmed at the end of 2019,
AAVSO provided the crucial photometry.
What can you do? If you'd like to
participate in this august body's valuable mission, go to aavso.org and sign
up. You can request a mentor who'll
shepherd you in your first forays into
the wonderful world of variable star
observing. The AAVSO, via its helpful
staff, provides rigorous training.
Depending on your interests, skills,
and equipment, you can participate
in a variety of programs through the
AAVSO's observing sections, which
include eclipsing binaries (e.g., Algol),
long-period variables (e.g., Mira), and
even exoplanets. Interested in spectroscopy? You can get involved in that, too.
You don't have to make the connection with pros on your own - AAVSO
staff will act as liaison. Amateurs now
work with international researchers
across the globe and, increasingly, participate in data analysis. "The non-professional community are essential collaborators for the acquisition of data,"
says Stella Kafka, executive director of
the AAVSO. "Amateurs enable research."
The line between pro and am astronomers is again happily fuzzy.
„ Observing Editor DIANA HANNIKAINEN
works on both sides of the pro-am line.
sk yandtelescope.org * JANUARY 2 021

57


http://www.aavso.org http://www.skyandtelescope.org

Sky & Telescope - January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - January 2021

Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 1
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 3
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 4
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 5
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 6
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 7
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 8
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 9
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 10
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 11
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 12
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 13
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 14
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 15
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 16
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 17
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 18
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 19
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 20
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 21
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 22
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 23
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 24
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 25
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 26
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 27
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 28
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 29
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 30
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 31
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 32
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 33
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 34
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 35
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 36
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 37
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 38
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 39
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 40
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 41
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 42
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 43
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 44
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 45
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 46
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 47
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 48
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 49
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 50
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 51
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 52
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 53
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 54
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 55
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 56
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 57
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 58
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 59
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 60
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 61
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 62
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 63
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 64
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 65
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 66
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 67
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 68
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 69
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 70
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 71
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 72
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 73
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 74
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 75
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 76
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 77
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 78
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 79
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 80
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 81
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 82
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 83
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - 84
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover3
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - Cover4
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA1
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA2
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA3
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA4
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA5
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA6
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA7
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA8
Sky & Telescope - January 2021 - SA9
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/skywatch_2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202009
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202007
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202005
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202003
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_202001
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201912
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201911
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201909
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201908
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201907
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201906
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201905
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201904
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201903
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201902
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201901
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201812
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201811
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201810
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201809
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201808
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201807
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201806
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201805
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201804
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201803
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201802
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201801
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201712
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201711
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201710
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201709
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201707
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201706
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201705
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201704
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201703
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201702
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201701
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201612
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201611
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/newtrack/st_201612
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201610
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201609
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201608
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201607
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201606
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201605
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201604
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201603
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201602
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201601
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201512
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201511
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201510
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201509
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201508
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201507
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201505
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201504
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201503
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201502
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201501
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201412
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201411
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201410
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201409
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201408
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201407
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201406
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_mars
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201405
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201404
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201403
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201402
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201401
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201312
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201311
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201310
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201309
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201308
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201307
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201306
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201305
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201303
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201302
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201301
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201212
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201211
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201210
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201209
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201208
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201207
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201206
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201205
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201204
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201203
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201202
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201201
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201111
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201110
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201109
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201107
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201105
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201103
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201101
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201011
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201009
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201007
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201005
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201003
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aas/st_201001
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com