Master Observer Award

Master Observer Award Coordinator:

Aaron Clevenson 19411 Cluster Oaks Drive
Humble,TX 77346-2918
(281) 852-4667


The Astronomical League currently sponsors over five dozen observing programs for its members to participate in; more continue to be added. These awards help to give focus and direction to many observers.  Ranging from beginning programs for the novice, to those which require a major effort from an observer long committed to the hobby -- from naked eye observing to projects requiring a major light bucket -- and from orbital satellites through the shallow sky of the solar system to the deep reaches of intergalactic space, these awards have caught the imagination and attention of hundreds of amateur observers.  In fact I know a number of professional astronomers who continue to hone their observational skills by participating in AL observing programs

Many members move through one program after another (or, like me, they are working on several programs, simultaneously), constantly seeking new inspiration.  Over the years, the quality of amateur observations has increased.  Observers appreciate being rewarded at the completion of a program.   Because of this, the League developed a Master Observer Award, which recognizes those whose interests are broad and whose skills are deep.   The effort requires a breadth of observing knowledge while also permitting the observer to pursue special interests.  What follows is a description of the work required to receive the Master Observer Award.


Rules and Regulations

The Master Observer Award will be given to an AL member who has completed at least ten of the League's observing programs. There is a core requirement of the following five observing programs to be completed by all:

  1. Messier Program (Honorary)
  2. Binocular Messier Program
  3. Lunar Program
  4. Double Star Program
  5. Herschel 400 Program

These are currently five of the most popular programs in the League and represent a well-rounded observing program. The member will then be allowed to choose any five of the remaining AL observing programs to complete the requirements for the Master Observer Award.

Please note that only the most advanced award for any program is acceptable for a Master Observer Award if there are levels in a program, e.g., the Honorary Certificate only for the Messier Club, the 36-hour certificate for the Meteor Club, etc. The Dark Sky Advocate Award and the Special Observing Awards (Planetary Transit, Eclipse, NASA Challenges, etc.) cannot be used for the Master Observer Award.  Note also that the Caldwell has both Gold (all 109 objects) and Silver (the 70 objects visible in the Northern Hemisphere) Certificates. In this case, each is treated as a separate award; however, an observer is only allowed to include one or the other among the five optional programs.

Once a member has completed ten of the observing programs, she or he will be awarded a certificate and pin. We are currently working on a process whereby each of the awardees will also receive a small plaque.


Submitting for Certification

The member should contact the coordinator of the Master Observer Awards with information that includes:

  • A list of the awards you have completed.
  • The certificate number.
  • Your name, as you want it printed on the certificate.
  • Your mailing address.
  • Your telephone number.
  • Your E-mail address.
  • Your club affiliation (If you are a Member-At-Large, please include that information, too).

Once the awards are verified and documented, the Master Observer certificate and pin will be sent.



I would like to thank John “Sparky” Sparks, a long-time friend and fellow observer from the Knoxville (TN) Observers, who presented the idea of an award for those who had mastered a wide variety of observational skills to John Wagoner in Plano, TX, who at that time coordinated the awards for which I am now responsible.  Wagoner then did the initial legwork and I added the finishing touches after he found it necessary to relinquish custody of the award.   Warren Kirbo, another friend and observing partner, who was also an artist as well as a master observer in his own right, designed the pin and logo.  He was from Camilla, GA and passed away in Nashville, TN a few years ago. - Mike Benson

I would like to add an additional name to the list of people who have played a major role in the development of this award and have brought it to the level of participation that it is at today.  I have the honor to follow in the footsteps of Mike Benson.  Mike has decided that it is time to pass the baton.  Thank you Mike for all you have done for this award and the Astronomical League.  I will do my best to continue the tradition.

- Aaron Clevenson


Master Observer Award Coordinator:

Aaron Clevenson
19411 Cluster Oaks Drive
Humble,TX 77346-2918
(281) 852-4667



Master Observer Progression Webpage
Observer Award Webpage
Binocular Master Observer Award Webpage
Master Observer Award Webpage
Advanced Observer Award Webpage
Master Observer - Silver Award
Master Observer - Gold Award
Master Observer - Platinum Award

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