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Frequently Asked Questions from New Observers

The membership database is currently undergoing upgrading/testing. Web functions that involve an interface with the member database (webobs, etc.) may experience intermittent problems. We hope to have this issue resolved within 24 hours (by 5pm Eastern Time on October 1st or 12:00 UT). Thank you for your patience.

Q- How do I get observer initials?

A- Simply go to the "Request Observer Code" page and fill out the form requesting observer initials, and they will be assigned to you immediately.  If you do not already have a website account, you will need to create one and then log in before requesting your initials.  If you have ever had observer initials in the past, please contact the AAVSO to recover your old initials instead of requesting new ones!

Q- How do I submit observations?

A- You can submit observations either one-by-one or as a data file via a tool called WebObs.

Q- Which stars should I observe first?

A- This is a perfect question for you to ask your mentor. The answer depends on your location, equipment, experience, availability ... even the time of year! We do have a general list of "Easy-to-Observe Stars" that should be useful.

Q- How often should I observe my variables?

A- This too is a great question for you to discuss with your mentor. It depends very much on the type of variables you are observing. Here is a useful table with observing frequencies.

Q- I don't feel very confident about my estimates - do my observations agree with those of other observers?

A- Sometimes, just knowing that your observations agree with those of an experienced observer can provide reassurance. You can look up other observers' observations, as well as your own, by searching our database using our WebObs tool.

Q- What's a good eyepiece for variable star observing with my telescope?

A- This depends on your specific telescope, the focal length, aperture and other factors. The best general advice is to use the highest quality eyepiece you have. Anything more specific is a perfect topic for discussion with your mentor.

Q- What happens to my variable star estimates after I have submitted them?

A- They become a part of the 100+ year old AAVSO International Database archive, which is a valuable resource for professional (and amateur) astronomers who want to use it for their research projects. Just visit "AAVSO In Print" to get some idea of how important your observations can become!

Q- Is observing variable stars really fun?

A- Yes! In fact many observers have found it to be an addictive pleasure.

"I feel it my duty to warn any others who may show signs of star susceptibility that they approach the observing of variable stars with the utmost caution. It is easy to become an addict and, as usual, the longer the indulgence is continued the more difficult it becomes to make a clean break and go back to a normal life."

Leslie Peltier
Author, Astronomer, and World-Class AAVSO Observer

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AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 aavso@aavso.org 617-354-0484