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Aavso Variable Star Atlas

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WFOA's picture
Aavso Variable Star Atlas

Hi all,

I am new to this forum, so please bear with me if I ask something that is clear to the others (tried to find it but couldn't).

There is this Aavso Variable Star Atlas, in my time (a while back ;)) that was a standard work for variable star observers. Now I do not find any reference to this atlas on the Aavso website, and when I do a search on Amazon I only get referred to used volumes in astronomical prices (> USD 700).

What happened to this nice piece of work? Has it been replaced by digital online resources? If yes, I must be getting old, I still like the good old paper copy.

Thanks for your explanations!

* Folkert/ WFOA/

SXN's picture
AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

When it was published, the atlas was a state of the art publication. It is still a beautiful example of stellar cartography in its own right. However, it is woefully out of date and in many instances inaccurate. The charts are done in B1950 coordinates and the positions of some variables are in error. By today's standards, the photometry of the comparison stars is unreliable. You might use it as a finder for some of the bright variables, but do not use it as the source for comparison values for making observations.

Unfortunately, our chart plotter, VSP, is not very good at making binocular or bright naked eye variable charts. What happens is that when you plot a large field of view with a limiting magnitude of say 9th mag, far too many comparison stars (associated with other variables in the same FOV) are plotted for the charts to be useable. We have just begun a new initiative to create a set of charts for a couple hundred bright variables that have been selected as the new AAVSO Binocular Program. These will have hand selected and labeled sequences like our old paper charts. I expect these will begin to be published beginning later this year.

Gustav Holmberg
As a binocular observer, I

As a binocular observer, I think this is good news!


TYS's picture
Binocular Variable Star Charts

As a VS observer who does a lot of binocular observeing I'd would be very interested in these charts.

clx's picture
Binocular Charts

Good News!

     I tried reverting back to VS visual observing observing two years ago; but it involved lugging a hundred odd pounds of telescope from my condo some four hundred feet to the sun deck, then up 22 steps, setting it up, observing, then lugging it all back again.

     For reasons I won't trouble you with, I was unable to do any binocular estimates last year and I'm unlikely to  resume until this October. Hopefully the new charts will be available by then

Binocular charts

It's really great news!  I'm really looking forward to it.

In the mean time, a work around that I employ is to use the more detailed portion of the VSP program, which allows the user to specify a limiting magnitude.  For instance, for my location and 7x50 Fujinons, it is almost impossible to see anything dimmer than 8.3, so I specify that as the limit on the chart.  As a result, I have very little difficulty sorting our the various stars in the field of view.

I hope the enhancements will include the option to include star names (Greek designations) and an option to include other binocular variables on the same chart.  With VSP as it is, if one selects plot all variables on a chart for, say, CH Cyg, one gets a hopeless mess.

conan's picture
Binocular charts

I too look forward to these new-fangled (but retro) binocular charts. The "A" charts don't do justice to the brightest variables.

HQA's picture
AAVSO Variable-Star Atlas

While this atlas is not recommended for variable-star observing, and as Mike mentions, has some errors, it still is a nice atlas of the sky and has historical value.  Certainly the used-book price of >$700 is out of range, as you can still order this atlas from the AAVSO for $15:

For serious work, I'd wait for Mike's new charts; but the Atlas is fun to look at and can help in star-hopping to the brighter variables.



I have a copy of the atlas, and still use it from time to time when looking for new stars to add to my observing program.  I use the list at the end of the document.

But alas that list is really out of date.  I realize that VSX is a much more extensive list, but I don't find it nearly as easy to use.  Is there any possibility of an update to the list in the format of the Atlas?

HTY's picture
The Original AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

I still have my original copy of the original boxed atlas with the huge charts printed on one side with the variables listed on the reverse.  As I recall, it came with a nice booklet called, "The Sky and Telescope Guide to the Heavens" or something like that.  Although the paper stock was nice and heavy, it was kind of inconvenient to use in the field and I used to bring the charts to work to reduce them to 8.5" x 11". 

When the smaller bound atlas came out, it was definitely easier to use in the field but since it was printed on both sides of the paper, it sabotaged my favorite way to illuminate visual charts which was to shine a dim red light through the back of the chart. 

Sorry for the rambling reminiscing. I guess I'm officially an old timer now!:)


TYS's picture
The Origional AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

Tim, don't feel so bad I still have mine.:)

Rich (TYS)

phil_evans's picture
Other forms of the chaarts?

I'm not sure this is the correct place to ask, but I had to start somewhere...

Many years ago, on a mountain top far away, I was handed a very large and heavy roll of canvas charts.  They were AAVSO finder charts printed on sheets of canvas, but all for the Southern Hemisphere.  If I remember correctly they were about three feet square, but I don't remember the epoch...maybe 1950 or even 1900.  I was told tha if I could, find a nice home for them as they were just sitting in poor storage conditions and would eventually rot.  I believe there were about 75 charts in this roll.

Much to the horror of my wife (now ex), I took them home and added them to my collection of things in storage.  A number of years later, after moving back to California, I was finally able to find a nice home for them in the "historical" collection of Chabot Observatory in Oakland, CA.  They were absolutely thrilled to receive them.

I was just very happy indeed, to finally find a place where they could be taken care of properly and given the respect they deserved.

I would love to learn more about the history of these canvas charts and if anything like them are still ever produced?

I'm really feeling old right

I'm really feeling old right now. I remember when the last(?) AAVSO Star Atlas was a work in progress, and everyone was eagerly awaiting it. The name is forgotten, but one of the AAVSO's biggest benefactors was funding it, as I recall. Maybe a Casper Hossfield(?) was one of the bodies working on it - at least that name popped into my head when I saw "atlas."

I think they were going with 1950 coords as that was in keeping with all the charts, but my memory is faulty. Maybe someone can enlighten me.



SXN's picture
AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

The atlas was compiled and published by Charles Scovil, and it was funded by Clint Ford.

Mike Simonsen SXN

Thank you, Mike. Very

Thank you, Mike. Very familiar names now that the gray matter has been jostled. (grin)

wlm's picture
AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

As Mike has pointed out, the atlas was produced by Charles Scovil and funded by Clint Ford. Charles worked off of charts provided by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and based on the SAO catalogue of stars to ninth magnitude, epoch 1950.0. The first editon was boxed charts that were square, rather large, and not suited for use at night. Charles added symbols for non-stellar objects from some other catalogue for that first editon. A second edition was later produced, sized for a more convenient use at the telecope on 8 1/2 by 11 notebook sized paper; that too required an enormous amount of work on Scovil's part. All this is described in more detail in Advancing Variable Star Astronomy: The Centennial History of the AAVSO, along with the complexities of the politics of the project.


I purchased my AAVSO atlas somewhere in the late 1980's. I had gotten the tour of the headquarters by Janet Mattie and her son. I paid $40 for it on the spot without question. It had just been released by Scovil. I use it to this day. It came with a plastic insert that has several different field of view circles.

weo's picture
AAVSO Variable Star Atlas

I'm glad the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas is still appreciated and used - an enormous amount of work went into creating it! It is very important, however, NOT to use the magnitudes in the Atlas to make observations. The magnitudes have been replaced by much more accurate, precise values obtained via surveys such as APASS - the AAVSO Photometric All-Sky Survey. Magnitudes should be obtained by using the Variable Star Plotter (VSP) on the AAVSO website ( It is for this reason that the Atlas is no longer offered online for sale by the AAVSO.

By the way, tfisher commented on being shown around AAVSO Headquarters in the 1980s by Janet Mattei and her son. Janet did not have any children - the "son" would have been one of Janet's assistants, either a summer Margaret Mayall Assistant or recent permanent addition to the staff, Mike Saladyga!

Good observing,

Elizabeth Waagen, AAVSO HQ

davidjayjackson's picture
I got a copy of the 2nd

I got a copy of the 2nd edition with my membership in the Astronomical League. 

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