Aaronson was educated at the California Institute of Technology where he received a BSc in 1972. He completes his PhD in 1977 with a dissertation over the near-infrared aperture photometry of galaxies. Afterward he worked as Associate Professor for Astronomy at the University of Arizona. In 1984, Aaronson and Jeremy Mould received the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society.
His work concentrated on three fields: the determination of the Hubble constant H0, using the Tully-Fisher relation, the study of carbon rich starss and the velocity distribution of those stars in dwarf spheroidal galaxies.
Aaronson was killed during a tragic accident in the evening hours of 30 April 1987 in the dome of the 4-m Mayall Telescope of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Due to a malfunction of the emergency stop, Aaronson got caught in the catwalk door of the turning telescope dome when the outer stepladder closed it.
Asteroid 3277 Aaronson is named in his honor.