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Visual observers' creds.

The News Note "Past Meets Future at AAVSO's Centennial" (S&T: January 2012, page 20) gives the impression that visual observing no longer has a place in variable-star astronomy. We disagree with this assessment, and the AAVSO is firmly committed to the support and encouragement of visual variable-star observing and its use in astronomical research.

The research community has made it clear to us that visual data for many variable stars still have scientific value, and that visual observing should continue. Professional astronomers who use AAVSO visual data in their own work gave their support during the AAVSO's General Meeting, and many more make regular use of our visual light curves for both research and teaching. One of the most important products of visual observing--the centuries-long observing records for some stars--is unique: you cannot turn the clock back and obtain instrumental data. Continued visual observation of these stars is vital for the future study of their long-term behavior.

Visual observing also remains a low-cost and low-technology means for all astronomers to participate in meaningful scientific data collection; it provides this opportunity to a far larger global community than digital observing alone possibly could. It has also been proven as a gateway for young people to become involved in astronomy.

We think that visual and digital observers each have their own strengths that should be put to the best and most productive use. We also think that there remains more than enough valuable work for visual observers to do that ensures they can make important contributions to science while doing what they love. The AAVSO will continue to support and encourage all observers, visual and otherwise, to make their own contributions to the good work that we all believe in.

Matthew R. Templeton

Science Director, AAVSO

Mario Motta

President, AAVSO

Arne A. Henden

Director, AAVSO

Editor's Note: For more on photometry and the AAVSO's visual Citizen Sky project, see the article sidebars on pages 20 and 26.

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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Templeton, Matthew R.; Motta, Mario; Henden, Arne A.
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Mar 1, 2012
Words:326
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