Nova Search Section

AAVSO Nova Search Observing Program

For more information on novae searching, please contact Committee Chairperson Kenneth C. Beckmann,

nova nova1500.gif
Left: Impression of a cataclysmic variable with an accretion disc that closely resembles the binary system involved in a nova outburst. A nova outburst is the result of a thermonuclear runaway of hydrogen-rich material that has accreted onto the white dwarf.
Right:AAVSO Lightcurve of V1500 Cygni (the bright nova in Cygnus in 1975)
CV Image by Mark A. Garlick (

The Nova Search Committee of the AAVSO was established in the early 1930's with the belief that a serious stargazer can render valuable contributions to astronomy with a systemized visual search for and discovery of novae in the Milky Way. Those regions in our galaxy where novae are most likely to occur have been divided into areas 10 degrees in declination by about 1 hour in right ascension. An observer who is interested in searching for novae is assigned specific areas, but once he/she has searched these, he/she can go on to other areas, thus encouraging a thorough coverage of the sky. In addition to searching specific areas, an observer can also add a "dome search" to his/her program. This is a naked eye scan of the whole visible sky, whose purpose is to catch a bright nova among the brightest stars (down to 3rd magnitude) of the constellations.

The standard equipment for the AAVSO Nova Search is a good atlas, such as the AAVSO Variable Star Atlas, and a pair of 7 x 50 binoculars. Following a standard procedure the observer uses the atlas to prepare charts of the areas he/she is observing as they appear to his/her eyes. The observer uses these charts in his/her monthly searches.

At the end of each month the observer uses special report forms to report the dome and area searches and faintest magnitudes checked to the Chairman.

Potential discoveries are verified by an experienced observer, and if an object is verified as "new," the AAVSO Director is contacted immediately. Upon having the discovery confirmed, the Director contacts the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to alert the astronomical community via the International Astronomical Union Circular.

Observers who are interested in becoming involved in this exciting and valuable nova search program should contact the Chairperson Kenneth C. Beckmann. Information and assistance can be provided to you as you begin your nova search.

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