As a relatively new digital observer, I can support Thomas’s and Tom’s suggestion. I have spend the past 2-3 months being coached by a Mentor, provided by AAVSO, and just last week submitted my first data to AAVSO. My Mentor is very experienced with digital observing and operates technically at a very high level. The following key activities make up the overall digital process:
- decision-making on which variable stars to observe based on your location and equipment
- carrying out the imaging process itself - probably the most straightforward step but not without its challenges
- digital processing of the images very precisely after capturing them to ensure they are comparable with observations of others using different equipment.
- analyzing the star images to determine the magnitude at the precise time of imaging
- formatting and submitting the data to AAVSO
Along the way in the above process, you’d likely also need to learn some new software for capturing and processing the images and later doing the analysis... nothing very difficult but it can be time-consuming.
I had initially planned to observe visually but the light pollution in my location in Massachusetts made it difficult to see enough stars and several attempts at visual observation resulted in frustration. Possibly with more time, patience and coaching, I might have overcome my initial hurdles with visual observing. I mention this since your location may be a factor to consider in how you want to proceed. If you have dark skies, you’re pretty much ready to begin learning and observing right away. If light pollution approaches Bortle 7/8 as does mine, you may want to consider the digital approach ... but only if you are also a bit technically- minded and prepared for the learning curve.
You can learn all about the processes of visual and digital (cmos cameras are replacing ccd cameras that are described in the AAVSO manuals) photometry from the AAVSO website. They provide tutorials and, if you join AAVSO as a member, they will provide a Mentor to help you get started. Unless you already have the equipment for digital observing, I’d encourage you to start by visual observing if your skies allow. Once you have done this for a while, you’ll be familiar with the process, you’ll know how magnitude estimates are made and submitted to AAVSO databases.
With this experience behind you, you’d be better informed and positioned to move into digital observing if you want and to go ahead and acquire the necessary camera, filter(s), and software. Whichever way you go, it’s a wonderful learning process and an activity that will allow you to make useful contributions to astronomy.
Edited by GaryShaw, 02 January 2021 - 09:03 AM.