Variable Star Astronomy Education & Public Outreach Initiative
The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) published a comprehensive variable star curriculum, “Hands-On Astrophysics, Variable Stars in Science, Math, and Computer Education” in 1997. The curriculum, funded by the National Science Foundation, was developed for a comprehensive audience – amateur astronomers, classroom educators, science fair projects, astronomy clubs, family learning, and anyone interested
in learning about variable stars. Some of the activities from the Hands-On Astrophysics curriculum have been
incorporated into the educational materials for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory’s Educational and Public Outreach (EPO) Office. On two occasions, in 2000 and 2001, triggered by alerts from amateur astronomers,
Chandra observed the outburst of the dwarf nova SS Cygni. The cooperation of amateur variable star astronomers
and Chandra X-Ray scientists provided proof that the collaboration of amateur and professional astronomers
is a powerful tool to study cosmic phenomena. Once again, the Chandra and AAVSO have teamed up – this time to promote variable star education. The Hands-On Astrophysics curriculum is being re-designed and
updated from the original materials to a web-based format. The new version, re-named Variable Star Astronomy, will provide formal and informal educators, and especially amateur astronomers, educational materials to help promote interest in and knowledge of variable stars.