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How do yall organize your charts?

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mdrapp's picture
How do yall organize your charts?

Hi all,

One of the major impediments to my enjoyment of variable stars was simply that I just didn't have the charts on hand when I had time to observe.  This week I've made a concerted effort to print out some charts (mainly for stars on the binocular list) for stars that would be within my viewing window for at least the next month or so.  As you might expect, these charts contains stars in Cygnus, Lyra, Andromeda, Delphinus and Pegasus.

My current untried scheme is to put the stars belonging to a certain constellation in a file folder and then all of the folders in one of those plastic portable file folder boxes with a handle.  I will keep this in the garage next to my scope and binoculars.  The idea is that if I come home and its clear, I can look up, pick a constellation that is well placed, open the file folder box, pull out the constellation folder, and pick some variables to observe.  (I may further separate these folders into telescopic and binocular folders, but for now will use the "Binocular Chart" label that VSP conveniently puts on the binocular charts for that for now.)

What organizational schemes do yall use?

--Michael in Houston (RMW)

williampme's picture
chart organization

I have 2 different chart collections, both very simple.  The first is my "circumpolar" charts.  Everything north of 60° goes in that binder.  I observe these year-round so they get first priority.  The second is "seasonal" and they take up 2 binders.  They cover the remainder of the sky that I can see.  the charts are in clear document protectors in 3-ring binders.  I usually have a B and D scale chart back to back in the same protector so I can take them to the scope if i need to. All charts are simply in order of right ascension.

KRS's picture
Chart Organization


Over the years (53 and counting) I have tried all kinds of arrangements.  I have found that organizing them by RA is the best for me. I hope this helps.


GKI's picture

Hi Guys, I used to print all my charts also and place them in a file folder arranged in alphabetical order per constellation name.

Nowadays, I store them all digitally on my iphone, I download the chart, invert the colours in photoshop to make the sky balck and stars white, this does not affect my night vision so much. The chart is then stored on my laptop in the relevant constellation folder, whereby I then connect to itunes to update the folder.

All of my charts are there on my screen 24/7

Keith.. ​

SET's picture
chart order

I have always have my charts in RA order. I used the AAVSO chart designation #, such as 213843 for SS Cyg. I have eclipsing binary charts in separate binders. I have reversed charts in separate binders. I have my standard charts in separate binders. Works great.


Chris Stephan   SET

Wooster, OH

BRJ's picture
Chart Arrangement

Just like Roger, Chris and I suspect nearly all of the other long-time AAVSO observers - I'm at year 53 and counting myself - I organize my charts by RA and then by descending Dec. All are filed in one large 3" thick looseleaf binder I take to the telescope. Now I'll admit that I most often work my observing program by constellation. However, with all charts organized by RA I know exactly where each chart is to be found within the looseleaf binder when I am occasionally a bit doubtful about some comp star. The arrangement also serves me well in that I list all my nightly observations by their old Harvard Designations in my records, so I know just where I'll find them among the list of 50-100 estimates from any given evening.  

Now in the "olden days" when I worked mainly binoculars stars along with Ed Oravec (OV) I always had my bound copy of Webb's Atlas of the Stars at my side. It showed all the constellations north of Dec -23 to about mag 9 to a pretty good large scale and had all the brighter AAVSO variables plotted and their sequences to that same magnitude limit, but sadly that luxury is no longer available to today's observers, the book now long OOP and the sequences have all been altered in recent years. 

J.Bortle   (BRJ)


SXN's picture
Proud to count myself among the "old timers"

I organize all my charts into binders to keep them protected from the dew, frost, and wind.

My system evolved quickly, and it hasn’t changed much over the years. I printed wide field finder charts from planetarium software with a limiting magnitude of about 9 that had a circle indicating the size of my finder scope field of view, and a little arrow pointing to my ‘jumping off star’. This was the star I would aim for when dialing in the setting circles or star-hopping to the next target. The same star would be indicated on the variable star chart so when I got to the eyepiece I could find my way to the variable star by star-hopping from there.  

In the binder, the finder chart was on the left and the variable star chart on the right. Simple for most CVs, I usually only needed one comparison chart. Each time I flip the page I'm on a new star. Mira stars with large amplitudes usually require additional charts. Typically, B charts for maxima above 9th mag, which I observe using the finder scope, D charts. Some Milky Way fields require F charts to relieve the crowding of comp star labels or to show 15th magnitude comps.

For the whole story see my blog post

Mike Simonsen (SXN)

pox's picture
I used to have 2 of those

I used to have 2 of those thick, metal-hooped folders, one for constellations A-C and the other for the rest. At the end of each month I would remove the stars for whatever constellations had sunk and insert those that were rising. Removed charts went into a third folder. The reverse of each chart would carry a finder chart (if necessary) for the 'facing' next star - so for example on the reverse of the R Cyg chart I would draw a finder chart for S Cyg and so on. I quickly got used to this system but at the same time got fed up with paper charts, so I wrote a windows program which I installed on a laptop that I use at the scope. Any chart (whether 'seasonal' or not) can be called up together with a finder chart if necessary. No more running ink or trying to prise apart two damp charts with gloves on...

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