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Beginners Guide to the Night Sky 2011 - Book Review


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The internet is a great resource, no doubting that. But there’s nothing quite like having a helpful book you can refer to quickly. As a beginner it is important to have some basic information to hand. Almost every beginner wants to know three basic things:

- Where is the moon, when does it rise.

- Where are the planets, when best to see them.

- What are the constellations I can see.

This little book aims to cover all those questions plus give some other grass roots information that will prove helpful. It reminds me a lot of the old Times Night Sky Guide. Which I used to love and rely on heavily as a newcomer to the hobby. Well that and my Philips Planisphere.

The book contains 30 pages, divided up into chapters giving information on meteor showers, monthly star charts, lunar phases, vital stats for the planets month by month, some basic valuable information that a beginner will want to know.

The star charts are easy to read and understand, showing the basic constellation shapes. Which should make them easy to identify, especially in light polluted areas. Perhaps one thing missing from the charts is the position of the planets. I always found it handy to see roughly where they would be in the night sky. But this is a minor quibble.

Another small error which the author alerted me too, and I hadn’t noticed, is the page order is out of sync. As a result the monthly star chart doesn’t sit opposite the monthly text page. But this will be corrected in the second edition.

The write up for each month gives the just right amount of detail. Making it possible to know what each planet is doing, where to find it and when best to observe it. There is also information about meteor showers, eclipses and the lunar phases. And it’s written in an easy to understand way. Every beginner should find the information provided very useful.

There is also a page of superb sketches provided by Carol Lakomiak. The aim of this page is to show how things actually look through a telescope visually. So no false hopes by showing some amazingly detailed colour images. It's a great idea and very useful.

I know there are some great planetarium software packages out there and a host of smart phone apps but for me personally, I would much rather have a book like this than any electronic device. I’ve only once taken the laptop into the garden and it’s just too much flaff for my liking. Give me a book any day of the week. And this is a great little book, especially for the targeted audience.

Edited by russ
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Great report on a great resource, Russ. I'm with you, I love books to dip into. I also use the Internet for research an enormous amount but a good book is much more pleasurable and I find that I absorb the information much more readily.

I hope the book is a success, it sounds like it hits the spot for its target audience.

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Thanks guys. I've really enjoyed working on it and it's really exciting for me :)

There are a number of things I've learnt in doing this though and as you've mentioned some changes should be made - including the page layout issue (which actually has far less impact than I first thought).

I'll look at putting planets on the maps - but the position at this scale will be quite rough...

Thanks for the review, and I'm glad you like it!


Beginners Guide to the night Sky 2011

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Looks like a great book. I`m with you all. As much as i love my laptop and using the net there is something almost comforting about a book. Also the ability to be able to be taken almost anywhere. To be honest, the books i have on Astronomy get used very often for refference etc and i usually only use the net when i am unable to find the answers in my books.

This book looks great and should provide a wealth of inforation for anyone wanting to get into Astronomy and wanting to know where to start or folks already observing that need a few pointers or a quick refference.

Best of luck with the book.

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It is a great little book. And i hadn't even spotted the page layout error until Ant notified me.

I used the book myself last night to check the moon phase quickly and what constellations would be up at midnight or just after.

Edited by russ
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Thanks, Ant, I received my copy earlier in the week as well and very good it is too.

This is just the sort of publication that will help any newbie to the hobby get to grips with what's up each month.

Useful information about the planets and Moon phases is complemented by additional information about meteor showers where appropriate.

A 2/3rd page chart showing the whole sky each month will help in the location of the constellations.

A nice set of deep sky object sketches gives a good idea of what several popular objects will look like through the eyepiece and a set of diagrams shows the light path through three different telescope types.

An explanation of 'oppositions' and 'conjunctions' and an explanation of what causes the Moon's phases completes a great little introduction to visual astronomy.

As Anthony himself concedes, this information is available by Googling the Internet but it is so convenient to have it all located in one place in such a readable format.


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