AAVSO Bulletin 74 - Predicted Dates of Maxima and Minima of Long Period Variables for 2011 - is published in a new format. The information that was included in earlier numbers of the Bulletin is included in this new format, along with more information. This year the Bulletin does not include stars that do not have an AAVSO mean curve. Please read all of the materials provided  to familiarize yourself with the new, customizable format of the Bulletin and all the ways you can use it in your variable star observing and research. If you have questions, please contact AAVSO Headquarters .
The AAVSO Bulletin is essential in planning your observing schedule each month. It contains predicted dates of maxima and minima of long period variables, and shows when a variable will be rising to maximum, fading from maximum, brighter than magnitude 11.0, and fainter than magnitude 13.5. The period covered is January 2011 through February 2012. You can access the Bulletin in the following ways:
Using the Bulletin Generator , you can customize the Bulletin to suit your observing/research needs. You can select:
On the line for a given star, you can click on the link to the AAVSO Light Curve Generator  to see the star's recent behavior, to the International Variable Star Index (VSX)  to see astronomical information on the star, or to the table of AAVSO observed maxima and minima  for the star. The N field (number of observations during calendar year 2010) tells you if a star is well covered or needs more observations.
The first step in planning your monthly observing schedule is to determine which part of the sky you will be able to see (see Table I below). Second, choose how you will look at the Bulletin according to the options above. Check the Bulletin file you have created or downloaded to find out which observable long period variable stars will be at the appropriate brightness for your equipment.
As an example, choose the schematic file (.pdf) of the entire sky for the entire 14 months the Bulletin covers. Table I below indicates that in the month of January 2011, from 2 hours after sunset until midnight, stars between 1 hour and 9 hours of right ascension are observable. Look at the first page or two of the Bulletin .pdf to see a sample of the possibilities.
The word 'rising' means that the star is brightening towards maximum; 'fading' means it is fading from maximum. The number gives the approximate date on which the star should be at maximum or minimum.
If you have a 2.5-inch telescope which has a limiting magnitude of 10 to 11, the white boxes under January show that the stars T CAS, X SCL, W CAS, U TUC, UZ AND, and several other stars will be brighter than magnitude 11.0 during this month and so they would be good candidates for observing with a small telescope.
With the same telescope, under January, the dark gray boxes show that SV AND, S TUC, S CET, Y CEP, U CAS, and several other stars will be fainter than magnitude 13.5, and will be below the limit of a small telescope.
If you have a large-aperture telescope (6-inch or more) or a charge-coupled device (CCD), please observe faint magnitude stars, and in particular faint minima, since observers with smaller-aperture equipment can adequately cover the brighter stars.
A well-scheduled program making use of the AAVSO Bulletin will increase the value of your astronomical contribution, as well as heighten the efficiency and enjoyment of your observing.