The AAVSO is an organization that thrives only with the work of dedicated observers and other volunteers. There are a number of new and ongoing projects at the AAVSO that need people to make them happen. If you're looking for ways to make a contribution to the AAVSO in your spare time (or on a cloudy night!) please consider helping with one or more of these important projects!
Mentor Observers (Mentor Program)
We need experienced observers - visual, CCD, DSLR, and PEP - who are willing to share their time and expertise to help new observers become proficient. If you would like to volunteer in our Mentor Program, contact AAVSO HQ.
Since we are an international organization, our main interactions with the community are through our website. For this reason, the majority of our tools are web-based in order to reach the largest number of users. We need your help to maintain existing programs and develop new applications. Persons with programming expertise - especially with Django and/or Drupal experience - are encouraged to contact AAVSO HQ.
Help us validate data with Zapper
Are you interested in helping HQ make sure that our variable star data remain the best in the world? Check out the Zapper program. Zapper is a Java, multi-platform program that enables our members, observers, and other volunteers to help make sure our data are of the highest quality by ‘zapping’ (identifying for HQ to investigate) discrepant data points.
Data digitization projects
The AAVSO has a number of data digitization projects for variable star and solar data of the 19th and 20th centuries that exist on paper but not in electronic form. Some of these are AAVSO data published elsewhere (like the Harvard Annals), some are observations found in private papers and correspondence with Headquarters, and some are published data appearing in early literature. While these data are "safe" - they are preserved and available in paper form - they are hard to make use of to plot light curves or analyze with computer tools. To make these data easily available to researchers, we want to enter them into the AAVSO International Database and so make them available through the light curve generator and the data download tool. We need your help to make that happen!
Some of these data, particularly those published in astronomical literature, are already scanned and available online, which means you can digitize or OCR them from the comfort of your own home or office! Other projects may involve going through the AAVSO Archive of historical papers and other material to seek out, scan, and digitize or OCR these data. See the list of projects below, and contact Elizabeth Waagen for more information. The AAVSO would be very glad to have your help with these important scientific and historical projects!
Here is a sample of the kinds of things that need to be digitized:
- Digitization of AAVSO data published in the Harvard Annals
- Digitization of the IAU Archives of Unpublished Observations
- Digitization of variable star observations of the 19th Century (or earlier)
- Transcription of the Eggen Archives
- Sunspot data
Help make Charts and Sequences
The AAVSO largely automated its chart production in the 21st century. Observers now download custom-made charts with characteristics chosen to match their instrumentation and preferences from VSP, the AAVSO Variable Star Plotter.
VSP has eliminated the need for teams of workers creating multiple ‘paper’ charts of various field sizes, magnitude limits, and field orientation. But it has not completely automated the process. Volunteers using a specific set of criteria still select the comparison star sequences used on all VSP charts. This work will continue indefinitely into the future. Would you like to help? Contact the Sequence Team leader, Tom Bretl, if you are interested.
Help us keep VSX up-to-date
The Variable Star Index (VSX) has become the largest variable star database in the world. As time goes by, more and more catalogues and lists need to be incorporated into it, which takes a lot of time and human resources.
We have made a call for volunteers so you can help us keep up with this challenge. There are many areas in which volunteer help is needed, and many projects that we can undertake. Contact us so we can discuss which one(s) would be best for you and most helpful to us.
Write articles for AAVSO publications
If you can write engaging, scientifically accurate articles about stellar astronomy, variable stars, observing, or the AAVSO, you can contribute to AAVSO articles. Please note that opportunities are only available on an as-needed basis. Contact us to find out more.
Referee manuscripts for JAAVSO
The Journal of the AAVSO contains the results of research on variable stars; authors from the international astronomical community published there include AAVSO members and observers. The quality of scientific journals such as JAAVSO depends on careful, objective, and informed refereeing. Potential referees are selected by the Editor and will be asked to do the job in a reasonably short time, normally a few weeks. If you have the expertise and can devote some of your time to maintaining the standards of our Journal, please contact the Editor to let him know.
Submit a Variable Star Presentation to the Library
The AAVSO has a library of prepared PowerPoint presentations written by AAVSO members, intended for use in talks or presentations about variable stars and related subjects. If you would like to submit a presentation for inclusion in our library see the instructions on this page.