For New Observers

If you are interested in learning how to get started making scientifically useful observations and submitting them to the AAVSO so that they can be used by researchers, you have come to the right place! We have a wealth of resources available to help you, and this page is designed to be your guide in getting started.

The preliminaries

If you have not done so already, please create an AAVSO website account. This will give you access to the tools you need to submit your data, use our forums, and much more. It is also free-of-charge. If you think you may have created an account with the AAVSO at any time in the past and you cannot remember your username or password, please contact AAVSO HQ and let us help you to get access to it again.   

If you do not yet have an AAVSO observer code, you can request one by logging in to the website, clicking "My Account", then the "Profile" tab, and clicking on the link for "Request an obscode". Please note that AAVSO observer codes are forever, so if you ever submitted data to us in the past – even if it was 30 years ago – we will still have your code. Again, please write to us if you don’t remember or aren’t sure if you already have one.

What type of observing do you plan to do?

We have an abundance of resources to help you get started. The methods and techniques differ depending on what kind of sensor you plan to use, but you should take advantage of all of them for your particular observing type:


Your eye (with telescope, binoculars or un-aided) Monochrome CCD or CMOS camera Color CCD or DSLR camera Photoelectric photometer


Visual Observing Manual

10-Star Tutorial

Guide to CCD/CMOS Photometry with  Monochrome
DSLR Observing Manual PEP Observing Guide

CHOICE Courses

Developing a Visual Observing Program

CCD Photometry 1 & 2

Photometry with VPhot

Fundamental Statistics for Photometry

Photometry with VPhot

Fundamental Statistics for Photometry

Photoelectric Photometry in the 21st Century

Fundamental Statistics for Photometry


Visual Photometry of Variable Stars

How to Understand Star Photometry: How it Works

How to Start with CCD Photometry

How to do Variable Star Photometry with your DSLR Photoelectric Photometry Observing Section Webinar


Visual Observing


Instrumentation and Equipment


Instrumentation and Equipment




How to Make a Visual Estimate (PowerPoint)      

Please Note: Making magnitude estimates by eye from digital images of any kind are no longer accepted.

Other useful information for all observers

There are a lot of useful links including ones for each of our online tools on our "For Observers" webpage, so it would be a good idea to bookmark it. Other subjects of particular interest to new observers include the following:

Variable Star Names – Traditionally, variable stars were assigned names which consisted of one or two letters followed by the 3-letter I.A.U. Constellation Abbreviation. Once the unique two-letter names for each constellation ran out, variables were assigned a “V” followed by a number from 335, again followed by the 3-letter constellation name. Some of the brighter stars use a Greek letter in their names instead. For AAVSO data submission and requests, the spelling of the Greek letter is shortened to 2 or 3 characters as described here. For variable stars discovered in more recent times, the names are usually derived from the surveys and/or their RA/Dec position. Since any given star can have multiple legitimate names, it is best to look them up using the AAVSO's own catalog of variable stars, the Variable Star Index (VSX). The primary name and any of the “Other names” found in a star’s VSX record should work in any AAVSO web tool.

Here are some examples of legitimate star names:

SS Cyg     del Cep     V2134 Sgr     ASASSN-16jb     R Leo     TCP J20210770+2914093

Star Charts and Comparison Star Sequences – The AAVSO requests that you use our charts and comparison stars magnitudes for all of your observations, especially when you are a new observer. The reason for this is that the comparison stars in our charts have been carefully selected to avoid variables and stars with unusual colors. It will also help your data to relate to that of other observers in a more consistent way. The AAVSO chart creation tool is called the Variable Star Plotter (VSP) and it is very easy to use.  

Submitting, Viewing, Editing and Deleting your Data – The online tool for submitting variable star data to the AAVSO International Database (AID) is called WebObs. When you are logged in to the AAVSO website, WebObs gives you the option to submit observations one at a time or in a data file (in two different formats). There is also a tool called WebObs Search, which lets you search for a list of observations based on star name, data range and other criteria. If your own observations are included in the resulting listing, you can edit or delete them as needed. Note that no one is allowed to delete another person’s data.

Need more help?

If you are an AAVSO Member, please feel free to request a mentor! If you are not a member, please consider joining today.

If you have other questions, please contact us: