Since its founding in 1911, 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. During 2011, the 100th year of the AAVSO's existence, the 20-millionth variable star observation was received into the database. The AAVSO International Database currently stores over 35 million observations. The organization receives nearly 1,000,000 observations annually from around 2,000 professional and amateur observers and is quoted regularly in scientific journals.
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 (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, a pro-am collaboration project examining the 2009-2011 eclipse of the star epsilon Aurigae.
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.
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).
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.
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.
^Clinton B. Ford Astronomical Data and Research Center Archived 2006-12-31 at the Wayback Machine
^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, AAVSO.org Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine where her photograph from 1930 appears.
^AAVSO: Part Four: The AAVSO and International Cooperation
^"John E. Bortle - 2013 Leslie Peltier Award". Archived from the original on 20 June 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
History of the AAVSO
Amateur Astronomy Reaches New Heights Space.com, June 28, 2000
A New Foundation for the AAVSO article in the January 2007 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine
Red Hot News… Possible Nova in Sagittarius! Universe Today, August 9, 2009