AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF VARIABLE STAR OBSERVERS (AAVSO)

aka AAVSO   |   CAMBRIDGE, MA   |  www.aavso.org

Mission

The mission of AAVSO is to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy.
We accomplish our mission by carrying out the following activities:
· observation and analysis of variable stars
· collecting and archiving observations for worldwide access
· forging strong collaborations between amateur and professional astronomers
· promoting scientific research, education, and public outreach using variable star data

Ruling year info

1954

Driector

Dr. Stella Kafka

Main address

49 BAY STATE ROAD

CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

04-2164402

NTEE code info

Astronomy (includes Observatories) (U31)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

AAVSO’s future and impact. Over the past two years, we listened to our members, studied the astronomy community’s needs, identified the ways our data supports research, and developed new ways to assist members with observing technology. We focused on three objectives: membership satisfaction, organizational impact, and long-term financial stability. Our challenge is to attract the interest of a diverse group of individuals worldwide in the observation of variable stars. These individuals will work to increase the size and quality of our current database that is used by professional astronomers in their research and they are critical to maintaining the AAVSO's 110 year legacy of data collection by citizen astronomers.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

CHOICE

The Caroline Hurless Online Institute for Continuing Education (CHOICE) is a collection of informal, online short courses on topics chosen to help members of the AAVSO and other adult populations contribute more to science. It has two main goals towards this end. First, we hope to train our participants to be better observers, analysts, researchers, writers and advocates. Second, by improving the quality of our data products and making them easier to use, it will help astronomers and researchers best utilize AAVSO data.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Young adults

AAVSO’s Exoplanet Observing Program is established to provide amateur astronomers with best practice techniques for conducting exoplanet observations, as well as to act as a central coordination point for professional/amateur exoplanet collaboration efforts. For example, upcoming space missions, such as TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), will be requiring extensive involvement by the amateur astronomer community in conducting followup exoplanet observations.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Academics

The AAVSO International Database has over 34 million variable star observations going back over one hundred years. It is the largest and most comprehensive digital variable star database in the world. Over 1,000,000 new variable star brightness measurements are added to the database every year by over 700 observers from all over the world.The AAVSO International Database is not only the largest but also the highest quality variable star database available to researchers. The AAVSO and its technical staff spend more time and resources on database maintenance and quality control than any other organization of its kind.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Academics

The 10-Star Training Tutorials are designed for novices who have no prior experience observing variable stars. It is a walk through of how to find the star, how to make an estimate and how to submit the estimate to the AAVSO. If you are new to the AAVSO then these are great tutorials to get you started.

The tutorial begins with stars that are easy to find and observe. Slowly the stars become more challenging as you go down the list. By the time you reach Epsilon Aurigae at the bottom of the list, you’ll be an expert variable star observer contributing real data to professional scientists!

Population(s) Served
Adults
Young adults

The AAVSO has a long tradition of mentoring its new observers. Since the earliest days of the AAVSO, experienced observers have helped new observers by corresponding, answering questions, and even providing personal guidance at the telescope.

The Mentor Program is primarily designed to pair new observers with experienced partners who can teach them about observing techniques, tools, methods, etc., as well as give them advice on target selection and interesting projects they might pursue.

We teach visual, CCD and DSLR observers 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.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Young adults

Spectroscopic monitoring of variable stars is a relatively unexplored domain within astronomy, with the potential to produce a wealth of new information. While individual objects, such as some cataclysmic variables (CVs), have been studied with high time resolution spectroscopic observations spanning days or weeks, long-term spectroscopic monitoring data for variables does not yet exist. Many interesting variable phenomena occur on time scales of months or years, meaning we lack the information that could prove critical in advancing our understanding, and in solving long-standing problems (such as the perplexing behavior of Semi-Regular variables or the still-not-fully-understood RV Tauri variables). Even for shorter period variables, there is surely much to be learned from high time resolution spectroscopic observation. There are many bright variables with little spectroscopic data available, meaning observers with spectroscopes on smaller telescopes have an opportunity to make an impact!

We provide here brief overviews of: the information that we can derive from a star’s spectrum; how to work with spectroscopic data; what to consider when selecting equipment for spectroscopy; the specific types of variables we recommend for spectroscopic observation; and, how to submit your spectra to the AAVSO. Much more detail is provided in the accompanying manuals and guides.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Young adults

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

GOAL 1 | ADVANCING SCIENCE
The AAVSO will be leading a citizen astronomy movement by encouraging its international community to
collaborate with professional astronomers, enabling novel science.
Our observers contribute to long-term and short-term scientific projects. The AAVSO is committed to
supporting their work by providing the resources and opportunities needed to maximize their impact.

GOAL 2 | BUILDING A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
SUPPORTIVE OF THE AAVSO’S
MISSION AND VALUES
The AAVSO’s superpower is its active, enthusiastic, and diverse international community of stakeholders

GOAL 3 | MAINTAINING & ENHANCING
OUR TECHNICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The AAVSO website is the hub of our international community. It is the platform that supports our programs
and initiatives and celebrates our accomplishments.


GOAL 4 | INCREASING OUR
OPERATION’S EFFECTIVENESS
The AAVSO accomplishes its mission through the combined efforts
of its staff, volunteers, observers, and members — 2,000 people
sharing a common passion and joy of observing variable stars and
contributing to scientific research. Over two hundred active volunteers
augment the six-person staff.
During the strategic planning process, we identified ways to improve
how we organize and guide our work efforts.
We established new operating committees to improve our effectiveness
that include staff, board members, and volunteers from our
community.
Programs Committee
IT Committee
Marketing Committee
Membership Committee
Observing Section Leadership Team

GOAL 5 | FOCUSING ON FINANCIAL STABILITY
The AAVSO’s long-term financial stability
depends on balancing income and expense
while not overdrawing from our endowment.
During the strategic planning process, we
scrutinized all of our expenses. This included a
detailed analysis of the work done by our staff,
contractors, and volunteers.
Next, we analyzed our income,

GOAL 1 | ADVANCING SCIENCE

fostering key partnerships with high-profile
international groups
• promoting the Journal of the AAVSO (JAAVSO) as
a recognized publication of variable star research
• encouraging professional-amateur collaborations
and mentorships
• maintaining and enhancing relevant tools for data
submission, retrieval, and analysis
• leveraging our observers’ expertise to educate
other citizen scientists
• educating our members and observers
• creating introductory learning materials to
encourage and support aspiring observers
• providing access to reliable data found in the
AAVSO databases
• creating engagement opportunities for individuals
with limited resources
• maintaining a help desk managed by our professional staff

GOAL 2 | BUILDING A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
SUPPORTIVE OF THE AAVSO’S
MISSION AND VALUES
• empower individuals to grow and learn in
variable star astronomy through AAVSO
meetings, webinars, and new observing section
activities
• ensure that our virtual and in-person events
provide welcoming opportunities for exchanging
ideas and information to maximize engagement
• connect professional and amateur astronomers
• promote inclusionary practices to guarantee the
fulfillment of our mission to fully involve anyone,
anywhere in scientific research.
• communicate the value of our observers’ data
to professional astronomers

GOAL 3 | MAINTAINING & ENHANCING
OUR TECHNICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
we are building a content-development strategy for our website that will provide:
• a solid and secure technical infrastructure
• curated databases
• best practices in software and content management
• enhanced cybersecurity
• updated software tools to facilitate observation submissions, data download and analysis

GOAL 4 | INCREASING OUR
OPERATION’S EFFECTIVENESS
We established new operating committees to improve our effectiveness
that include staff, board members, and volunteers from our
community.
Programs Committee
IT Committee
Marketing Committee
Membership Committee
Observing Section Leadership Team

GOAL 5 | FOCUSING ON FINANCIAL STABILITY
We are putting the following plan in place to
balance our finances, increase member support
and enable the AAVSO to grow and thrive.
• Reducing this year’s annual endowment
withdrawal to below five percent.
• Increasing non-endowment income by
working with professionals to develop a
comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Focus areas include:
o identify grant opportunities supporting
our mission
o identifying and contacting foundations
that support science research
o developing marketing materials to increase
our visibility
• Increasing volunteer involvement.
• Initiating a $200,000 Strategic Plan
Fundraising Campaign in 2020.

The AAVSO will be able to achieve its goals with the following resources:

Qualified staffing
Active Board of Directors
Supportive members
Staff, member and Board Committees to share the work
Endowment fund
110 years of experience

Established Committees are actively working together- Marketing,IT, Diversity, Membership, Observing Sections
Annual Campaign has been completed
Decreased the draw from our endowment
planned for the sale of our building to increase the endowment and available draw to support operations
website has been updated both technically and content presentation
survey of professional astronomers has been completed plan for increase participation in the AAVSO

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    anyone from anywhere who is interested in contributing to real science through variable star observing and data recording. We currnety engage over 5000 people from around the world.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings/Town halls, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Staff and Board underwent customer satisfaction training and training on how to work with people from all ethnicities and genders. Board and staff participated in a strategic planning process as part of the Harvard Community Action Program (CAP) The process included AAVSO members, staff, Board and friends of the AAVSO. Programming was reviewed and changed in response to member suggestions and the current interests in the world of astronomy. A long term plan was put into place that addresses all areas of our community.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    It has helped the organization to reshape programming for the future and identify new groups of members to take a leadership role in shaping the content of programs.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome,

Financials

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF VARIABLE STAR OBSERVERS (AAVSO)
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF VARIABLE STAR OBSERVERS (AAVSO)

Board of directors
as of 3/29/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Gordon Myers

Retired IBM

Term: 2018 - 2021

Kristine Larsen

Ph.D.

Joyce Guzik

Ph.D.

Bill Stein

Ph.D.

David Cowall

Michael Cook

John Briggs

Karen Kinemuche

PH.D.

Robert Buchheim

Ken Hudson

Robert Massey

Richard Berry

Robert Stephens

Gordon Myers

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 03/29/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 03/29/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.