John Percy's JAAVSO editorial: Variable Stars and Science and Math Education...

British Astronomical Association, Variable Star Section (BAA-VSS)
Sat, 01/16/2016 - 21:10

Firstly let me apologise for the appearance of having started a whole lot of discussion about education and then having vanished. Personal and family health matters intervened and disrupted a whole lot more than just my dialog with other AAVSO members via the forums!

Back to the topic:

Hopefully everyone has read John Percy's editorial in the latest JAAVSO (Vol. 43 No2). If not, I highly recommend it.

In this thread I'd like to invite members to discuss the ideas and resources that Percy has presented.

Firstly I must confess to being completely unaware of the "Hands-On Astrophysics" project. Having looked through the material briefly I think it is not only useful in what it attempts to provide but is a good template/style for materials we might like to add for educators.

To Percy's discussion of sharing, collating and linking to resources, it would be great for this to have oversight for organisation. What are people's thoughts about "reviving" the AAVSO Education Committee?

Regarding the dissemination of "best educational practices", this is an area where professional educators in the organisation, even if you don't feel that you know enough about variable stars to offer much else, can definitely help out. I am a computer programmer myself, not a professional educator. I would definitely welcome anything that assists me in the development of projects and my role in mentoring students.

What are you interested in and able to bring to these efforts?

Beyond STEM (or STEAM if you prefer) there is the simple longevity of the AAVSO's efforts to support. I've lived in the UK and New Zealand and the astronomical societies and variable star efforts in both are best described as too old, too grey and too male. Focussing beyond the U.S., the AAVSO is an international organisation in effect, so we can draw on lessons learned from an international community.

Thoughts? Share them here with the AAVSO community.

- Carl Knight.


American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Lots to think about

Hi Carl -

no need to apologize - life happens!

You are bringing back good memories. I was part of the team that developed HOA, and it was a pleasure going up to HQ (in the lower level/ basement of the old Clint Ford building at that time) to work with teachers on honing the materials. I am glad much of it (in revised format) is available free of charge online now.

John's article is indeed interesting, and I second your call for more people to read it. I gave a posted on undergeraduate research in variable stars at the recent AAS meeting and I got some very enthusiastic responses from faculty who want to try it themselves. I would also like to highlight student research even more at our meetings (as well as, of course, continuing to encourage students to publish their results in JAAVSO, where appropriate).

Perhaps we can highlight student research in a greater way once we get a new webmaster up and running....

Kris Larsen

American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Projects in hand

Hello Carl,

Nice seeing you back in action! We just published some targets/projects for students and educators - hopefully they will provide some momentum. Please note that, other than Janet's amazing HOA project (which is now online and can be found at: 

we have been hosting material from the Astronomy event of the USA Science Olympiad: which can also be a resource for interested educators

I would be very interested in knowing how educators in other countries could incorporate varable star observations/research in their curriculum. I know there is a thirst for such projects in the US - but I don't have an insight for other countries. Maybe it is easier to incorporate it in a physics/astronomy lab at the university level? Are "student astronomy clubs" popular and, if so, what are their activities?


Any insight would be very helpful!

Best wishes - clear skies,



American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Variable Stars in Education : John Percy's JAAVSO editorial: Var

Greetings Stella,  the links you provided in the body of your message come up, "Page Not Found."  Julian Parks




American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)

Hello Julian,

This is peculiar - the links seem to work quite well. Could you please advice on whether you are logged in or not on our web page (although it shouldn't make a difference, the material is available for all, not only for members).


Here are the links again:



Best wishes - clear skies,





American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Variable Stars in Education : John Percy's JAAVSO editorial: Var

Stella,  The links in the original message still do not work, but the new links you provided do.


Julian Parks 


Astronomical Society of South Australia (ASSAU)
Percey's editorial, HoA and VStar

Hi Carl, Kris, Stella, and Julian

I appreciated John Percey's editorial and found HoA useful, especially when I first started thinking about variable stars and period analysis.

VStar is mentioned and I recall that HoA has a couple of exercises using Grant Foster's original DOS VSTAR program. One of these involves AoV for period search for which there is a (new) VStar plug-in.

Is there merit in having some kind of supplemental material or web page or even an update to HoA that shows such exercises using the current VStar?


American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO)
Science Olympiad

I worked at the Western New Mexico University Academic bowl a few years ago. I used the supplied material to create two tests. The students who scored highest were in the 50 percentile! We have a lot of work to do!


First some caveats:  I am not an educator, never have participated in the AAVSO citizen science project, and am unaware of how much you all know about crowdsourcing of research. 

That said, I am wondering if the AAVSO might look into participating in the Zooniverse crowdsourcing research project  I just found out about it by reading the article in this month's issue of Physics Today:…

Given the caveats, my opinion is probably not worth much, but it does seem to me that the AAVSO could both make a greater contribution to education and gain greater visibility in the larger community by having a presence on a platform like zooniverse.  Take it for what it's worth.