Please help me get started. (Again.)
I could really use some help here. For the past several years, I've been trying to get some momentum going in doing visual variable star observing, but I keep running into brick walls.
I know I have an interest in it. I found the Nova in Delphinus last year fascinating and I enjoy star-hopping and looking at star fields. However, my variable star program has been basically just a series of false starts and frustrations.
It has been a few months since my last effort and I've recently begun to think long and hard about what has been going wrong, which actually wasn't all that difficult in hindsight.
I started out using an SCT on a goto mount. This seemed like the most efficient way to get measurements. However, the field of view was always too narrow; I never could identify the fields. Plus, the goto was just tedious and boring. It automated me right out of the hobby. It wasn't fun.
So, next I tried the AAVSO Binocular Program, which is wonderfully and thoughtfully put together. It seemed like a logical place to start for a beginner. Yet, I didn't enjoy it much either. Even with my 10x50s, the shakes were distracting and the constantly reacquiring the field was exceptionally tedious. I tried several tripods and binocular mounts, but those proved annoying unwieldy. So that wasn't much fun either.
So, I'm trying a different approach. I have thought long and hard about given my limited weeknight observing time, what equipment would be the most enjoyable to use that has the greatest usefulness in visual variable star observing.
I have settled on this: I have a 66 mm ED f/6 refractor on a lightweight but sturdy alt-az mount. The scope is exquisitely comfortable to use -- the eyepiece is always at a convenient height while seated. I can pick the entire thing up easily and move around the yard to avoid trees and lights. My wide-field eyepiece gives a 3.3 degree field of view and with my amici prism diagonal, the view matches any star chart.
So here is where I need some help. I've searched, but I'm in information overload. There sure are a lot of stars in the sky. What are three-to-five variable stars in the late Spring sky in the northern hemisphere that are relatively easy to find and estimate and in the range of my scope would be good to start with? (NELM is about 4.5) Well-observed stars are just fine. I want to practice first. And, of course, a star with a relatively short period would be nice, just for fun.