Rodney Howe, 2017 L.C. Peltier Award Recipient

Rodney Howe has a Master’s Degree in Remote Sensing / Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Colorado State University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, also from Colorado State University. His occupational work has been with Landsat and AVHRR satellite data classifying agriculture crop land images for the US Department of Agriculture. Responsibilities included experience in computer science, and Geographic Information Systems with the knowledge and skills for photometry and data analysis of satellite image classification. Knowledge from this type work has given him some experience with processing images of dense globular clusters, using images collected by AAVSO net of telescopes. He has been a member of AAVSO since 1999, when he began collecting Very Low Frequency radio data on Gamma Ray Bursts and Solar Ionosphere Disturbances (SID). 

He is currently the Solar Bulletin editor and chairperson for AAVSO Solar Section. He does the reporting for the (SID) detections for the AAVSO Solar Section in the process of collecting and recording the VLF radio SID events caused by solar flares. SID event submissions come from observer locations around the world.  In writing the Solar Bulletin his group collects all visual observations of sunspot counts and stores these data in the SunEntry database. All sunspot data are submitted by those observers who take their optical and CCD observations of daily sunspot counts. In looking to the future they now have observers who track the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) satellite white light and magnetogram images. From these data they can estimate sunspot group counts and sunspot counts which can be matched to visual observer counts.

Rodney has done what he can, since he became the Solar Section Chair in 2010, to promote the AAVSO Solar Section’s optical sunspot counts to solar scientists around the world, who are interested in the long standing American Relative sunspot index. By participating the last four Sunspot Number Workshops he has enabled the AAVSO solar sunspot number to become recognized as a published index. These workshops give exposure to 30 or 40 solar scientists about how the AAVSO has collected and reported solar observations for the past 70 years as the American Relative sunspot number. All the sunspot observations in the AAVSO SunEntry database are contributions from over 70 visual observers around the world who do their best to count sunspots on a daily basis. 

Diversity in participants in the program makes for a vibrant and robust data pool. What he finds amazing is how many young folks (mostly high school age) come for help in building VLF radios, or counting sunspots, and how often they are interested in space-weather.  The Solar Section seems to maintain a constant turnover rate in observers, which statistically means they will have few worries in keeping the American Relative sunspot index robust for the long-term.