(If you are interested in volunteering as a mentor, please click here.)
Why should I have a mentor?
The Mentor Program pairs new observing members with experienced observers who help teach observing techniques, tools, methods, etc., as well as give advice on target selection and interesting projects to pursue.
How to Connect with a Mentor
First: Become an AAVSO member
This program is included in the annual dues that members pay, which help AAVSO, a nonprofit organization, pursue its mission of enabling anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronoomy. (Click for a full list of member benefits).
Then: contact the AAVSO at email@example.com with the following information:
- What kind of observing you are interested in: Visual? CCD? DSLR?
- Any previous experience with observing
- Any equipment you use
- Which city/state/country you live in
The Mentor Program is carried out entirely by volunteers who teach members who observe visually, or via CCD or DSLR how to do everything from printing comparison star charts, to finding the variables in the sky, to reporting uncertainty in their CCD/DSLR observation reports.
Mentors may also connect you with active AAVSO observers near you. More often, mentoring happens remotely via email, Skype, and phone calls. A simple chat with an experienced observer may provide all the feedback you need to continue progressing as an AAVSO observer.
Additional Beginner Resources
Links to online resources for beginning observers can be found in the New Observers section of the "For Observers" page.
"...it is a fact that only by the observation of variable stars can the amateur turn his modest equipment to practical use, and further to any great extent the pursuit of knowledge in its application to the noblest of the sciences."
-- William Tyler Olcott, AAVSO Founding Father, March 1911
Become a mentor
If you are an experienced observer (visual, CCD, DSLR, or PEP) and are interested in volunteering your time and expertise to help new observers become proficient, we can certainly use your help! Just contact the Mentor Program coordinator (Sebastián Otero) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below, we offer a guideline for mentors so they know what is expected from them (also available in Spanish)
AAVSO Mentor program
Thank you for being a mentor for the AAVSO! Our Mentor program is one of the most valuable services of the association, as novice observers greatly benefit from the experience of their more advanced peers. Therefore, we greatly appreciate the effort and time you put into interacting with your mentees, as we are certain they value your advice and help. Becoming somebody’s mentor is definitely worth your time – they will continue your work as observers and remember your guidance for the rest of their lives, as they improve their observing skills.
If you’ve never been a mentor before, there are a few things you need to know to make it a worthwhile experience on both sides of the table. Below are some guidelines to ensure that we have an understanding of what activities are expected by our mentors, in order to provide the necessary assistance to mentees.
- First, discuss and define with your mentee what their goals are. Do they need to understand their instrument? Their observing mode? How to acquire data? What types of stars they can observe? Exposure times? This will help both of you plan and reach your goals within a reasonable time period.
- During the time you work with a mentee, please make sure you are accessible to answer your mentees’ questions on a regular basis. If you communicate by email, please get back to them within 2-3 days from their latest correspondence. (Please check your spam folder – some emails get lost this way). If you meet in person or virtually, perhaps every week would suffice. Mentees frequently lose interest when they do not receive prompt responses to their inquiries, so your active participation is really important!
- The above recommendation also applies to the Mentor program coordinator messages. It is important to get a reply from you about your availability in order to be able to contact another mentor if you can’t help anyone at that time.
- Please keep contact with your mentee. A rule of thumb would be, if you don't receive a response to your email within a couple of weeks, drop them a note to assess if they need further assistance. Some individuals give up after a couple of interactions with their mentors, but what they need is encouragement to overcome the steep learning curve. Mentoring is about finding a balance between providing guidance and encouraging mentees to continue their work.
- We would appreciate it if you have personal experience (not just interest) in the subject you choose to mentor individuals, so you can reply the new observers' questions. If you feel your mentee asks for help in an area you do not have direct experience on or you are uncertain, please get in touch with the Mentor program coordinator to suggest a different mentor for the individual. We want this to be a positive experience for both parties, and would like to use your time as efficiently as possible.
- Please let us know how many mentees you are comfortable mentoring at the same time. We appreciate taking the time to mentor AAVSOers, and we do not want to saturate your time. We always try not to assign more than one or two mentees to the same mentor, but at times we are short of mentors so we would like to know your availability.
Please note that, by participating in all AAVSO activities, you are expected to follow our Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy. Participation is taken to signify your acknowledgment that you have read these guidelines/policies and your agreement to adhere to them.