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Andrew*

A field guide: Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders

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Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with WHSmith, the author, publisher or any other commercial enterprise connected to IGAW

Having found an “armchair book” in the form of the excellent Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, I wanted a book to help me in the field. Someone on SGL recommended Illustrated guide to Astronomical Wonders (IGAW). This is a large, 500-page paperback book published just last year. I found it cheapest from WHSmith for just £13.85 delivered.

Upon perusal, this showed to have some overlap with BCH. That is, it goes into some detail on constellations and objects. However, what makes it ideal as a field guide is wide field star maps for every constellation and more detailed maps for every object. Additionally, there are star-hopping directions that are fairly easy to follow. These are very helpful for finding the 300+ Northern Hemisphere objects.

The objects from 5 different observing lists make up the objects in the book, ranging from the easiest to intermediate objects. The choice of objects means that a complete beginner to observing can make good and full use of the book until he or she can find all 300 objects unaided. Personally, I can’t see myself running out of objects to find and view or even needing another field guide (besides a star atlas/planisphere, which is also not essential, of course) for years to come.

The book begins with a small introduction to the book and to DS and DSO observing. This is all fully relevant to the book and not unnecessarily basic. It is aimed at the observing astronomer who is familiar with the basics.

It is worth mentioning the ubiquitous “Turn Left at Orion” at this point. IGAW is one step up from TLAO, and indeed I believe the complete beginner could well skip TLAO and be satisfied for longer with IGAW, which does the same thing, just more of it!

IGAW has black and white photos of most of the objects in the book, but places an emphasis on helping you know what to expect to see in the eyepiece. In most cases, the photos are not very deep and resemble closely what you will see in the eyepiece.

I have not yet had the opportunity to use IGAW in the field, but I have a good idea how it will fare. It is a fairly cumbersome volume that will not always sit open by itself. I would advise the user to have a table beside him on which to place it while observing. Other than that, it is very suitable for the field. Writing is concise but understandable and clear. The content is well laid out and easy on the eye. The maps are very clear and easy to use, with just the information relevant to the object in question. 5° finder circles and 1° eyepiece circles are overlaid on the individual object maps to help you with scale.

In summary, for any beginning deep sky observer, Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders could be the only book you will ever need in the field. It is very reasonably priced for what you get. However, if you only want a pocket sized field guide, IGAW will likely be a bit meaty for you!

Thanks for reading

Andrew

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Great review, Andrew. Thanks for taking the time to write that. Sounds like it could be a good investment. I have TL@O, but that could be a good addition.

Trev

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Thanks Trev,

If you ever get that feeling that you're cycling through the same old targets again and again, IGAW should sort you out!

Andrew

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I've been thinking of getting a comprehensive field book for some time as I can never find the time to print laminated charts from SN Pro (maybe I'm too lazy for my own good). This one has caught my eye. I'm assuming it contains the Messier list but what other objects are included in the 300+ total?

Does it, for instance, include the Caldwell objects and the Herschel 400 lists or is it a collection of sub-selections from various lists?

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Hi AN

It's a collection of objects from various lists. It has all the Messiers plus the RASC "Finest NGC" list. All the objects make up 5 different lists you can work through, so one object may be on 2 or 3 different lists.

The 5 lists:

- Messier

- Finest NGC

- Urban observer

- Binocular observer (with the subcatagories easy, tougher, challenge)

- Urban binocular observer (I think)

HTH

Andrew

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Sounds like a useful book for those starting to venture beyond the planets.

Shame this type of book it's not spiral bound so it would lie flat.

Mike

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A great book for any obsrver however, there always is an however, the binding is not very good. I have been using mine in Greece and possibly the heat has got to it but it is already starting to fall apart, bit like myself really but I am more than five weeks old.

Dave Cooke

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A little follow up from the review.

I forgot to mention that IGAW also lists the 100 best double stars.

And rather than Urban binocular observer, the 5th list is for deep-sky binocular objects, and the 4th list is called messier binocular, so includes the most suitable bino targets from within the messier catalogue.

Shame this type of book it's not spiral bound so it would lie flat.

Scot, it does lie on your lap or a table for the central pages, but the pages towards the beginning and end tend to flip shut unfortunately. I emailed Robert (one of the authors) and he said that spiral binding would add too much to the retail price so they went for this binding, which is more flexible than the usual paperback binding it must be said.

Andrew

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I would vote for this book over Turn Left at Orion, more detailed and the actual images are better than sketches and I think the description of how to find the objects are better also.

Plus, you get some great knowledge of equipment and all other telescope related stuff at the beginning etc.

I think this book should be pushed towards te beginners on this site more than Turn Left at Orion.

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Beamer - I think you're right TBH.

IGAW is very recent. It was published less than a year ago, but TLAO has had time to collect avid fans. I think it's only a matter of time before IGAW becomes what TLAO is.

Saying that, IGAW is somewhat denser and more daunting on first impression, which might put off the beginner. Nevertheless, it is equally as accessible once you get into it IMHO.

Andrew

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I would vote for this book over Turn Left at Orion, more detailed and the actual images are better than sketches and I think the description of how to find the objects are better also.

Plus, you get some great knowledge of equipment and all other telescope related stuff at the beginning etc.

I think this book should be pushed towards te beginners on this site more than Turn Left at Orion.

I also think its a better book than Turn Left.

I still think Turn Left is better at showing how to find stuff though.....

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good review thanks alot. might invest...

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I think tlao is nice for starting out, I like the sketches. Igaw is great to move onto I use it to plan most of my observing sessions

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