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Recommended Astronomy Books


Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe 

by Terence Dickinson, 176 pages 3rd edition (November 1998), Firefly Books; ISBN: 155209300X ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.79 x 10.81 x 10.80
Price: $31.50

The third edition of Nightwatch continues its tradition of being the best handbook for the beginning astronomer. Terence Dickinson covers all the problems beginners face, starting with the fact that the night sky does not look the way a modern city-dweller expects. He discusses light pollution, how to choose binoculars and telescopes, how to pronounce the names of stars and constellations, telescope mounts, averted vision, and why the harvest moon looks especially bright. Most of the lovely photographs in the book were taken by amateurs, which gives the section on astrophotography a particularly inspirational gleam.

Dickinson's star charts are very handy, each covering a reasonable field of view and mapping the most interesting amateur objects. He gives good advice for planet watching, which he notes "is one of the few astronomical activities that can be conducted almost as well from the city as from dark rural locations."

Altogether, the watchword for Nightwatch is indeed "practical" --this is a book to be used, not just read. Spiral-bound to lie flat or to fold back undamaged, it's a field guide that pulls its own weight in the field.  Author Timothy Ferris says, "Like a good night sky, Nightwatch is clear and wind-free. Try it and see for yourself."


Build Your Own Telescope - Complete Plans for Five Telescopes You Can Build With Simple Hand Tools 

by Richard Berry, 276 pages 2nd Edition (1993) 
Willman-Bell, Inc.; ISBN: 0-943396-42-5, Dimensions (in inches): 0.95 x 11.08 x 8.52
Price $24.95

The best single book today for making your first scope!  If you can only have one first book on making your own telescope this is it! In this book he leads you in how to build several excellent telescopes from parts that are easily available from  hardware/ lumberyard sources everywhere. He shows and explains 5  different example projects, 4", 6", 10" Newtonians on Dobson  mounts, how to mount a refractor on a Dobson type mount, and  even one equatorial mount made of plywood and  hardware  parts. The projects are well illustrated and explained. He gives  you a good overview of commercially available parts and  commonly used eyepieces. But beyond being just a simple  how-to project book he gives an explanation of telescope  history and and basic optical theory.

Sky Atlas 2000.0 : Deluxe (or preferably the Deluxe Laminated Version)

by Wil Tirion, Roger W. Sinnott, 30 pages 2nd spiral edition (December 1998), Cambridge Univ Pr (Trd); ISBN: 0521627621, Dimensions (in inches): 0.59 x 16.77 x 12.49
Price $40

The Second Edition of Sky Atlas 2000.0, this time with Roger W. Sinnott as co-author, is published and available in a Deluxe version (color) and in two black & white versions; a Desk (black stars on white) and a Field (white stars on black) version. The black & white are also available as laminated versions. All editions can be ordered from Sky Publishing  corporation or Cambridge University Press.

With a generous scale of 8.2 millimeters per degree, the deluxe version of this popular atlas has plenty of room for a life's worth of pencil markings.  Twenty-six fold-out charts show 81,312 stars in black (magnitude 8.5 or brighter) as well as 2,700 color-coded deep-sky objects.  The Milky Way is portrayed with four shades of blue that represent approximate brightness levels. In addition, two charts provide close-ups of such areas as the celestial poles and the Virgo-Coma galaxy region. A transparent overlay with grids is included. 12"x16.75" (charts unfold to 21"x16"). Spiral wire binding.  The laminated version will last longer and you can use dry erase markers for your observing session planning.

The Cambridge Star Atlas

by Wil Tirion, 90 pages 2nd edition (September 1996), Cambridge Univ Press (Trd); ISBN: 0521560985, Dimensions (in inches): 0.47 x 12.31 x 9.25
Price: $14

The basis of The Cambridge Star Atlas is a series of twelve monthly sky charts, followed by an atlas of the whole sky, arranged in 20 overlapping charts. Each chart shows stars down to magnitude 6.5, together with about 900 nonstellar objects, such as clusters and galaxies, that can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope. A comprehensive double-page map of the Moon's surface shows craters and other named features. 52 maps. 44 tables. 4 line diagrams.


The Backyard Astronomer's Guide; Terence Dickinson

336 pages (2002), Camden House Pub; ISBN: 1-55209-507-X, Dimensions (in inches): 0.92 x 11.38 x 9.75
Price $50

New Edition.  An essential reference tool for both beginning and veteran sky observers. Drawing on decades of stargazing experience, the authors suggest what equipment to buy and what to avoid, describe observing techniques, and explain how to hunt down the most interesting celestial objects. Each chapter is illustrated with the latest, breathtaking astrophotography.

Star Ware: The Amateur Astronomer's Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Buying, and Using Telescopes and Accessories, 2nd Edition

Philip S. Harrinfton, Philip S. Harrington
384 pages 2nd edition (July 13, 1998) 
John Wiley & Sons; ISBN: 0471183113, Dimensions (in inches): 0.86 x 9.20 x 7.56
Price: $17

A user-friendly guide offering all the necessary information for anyone purchasing a telescope, using one for the first time or upgrading current equipment. Includes a comparison of available telescopes describing which are best suited to specific needs. Contains scores of handy tips, diagrams, illustrations and activities and suggests what to look for in the night sky.

40 Nights to Knowing the Sky : A Night-By-Night Skywatching Primer

Fred Schaaf
256 pages 1 Ed edition (July 1998) 
Owl Books; ISBN: 0805046682, Dimensions (in inches): 0.69 x 7.41 x 9.18
Price $14.50

A practical, interactive guide for learning astronomy. Fred Schaaf has spent years perfecting the teaching of skywatching and astronomy to newcomers. Here, he distills his experience into a revolutionary new approach to learning about the night sky. No other book on the market offers anything like the simple, interactive, step-by-step program Schaaf has created for new skywatchers of all ages.  The key to Schaaf's ingenious program is a system of practical objectives and activities that get readers actively involved in skywatching. Starting with simple instructions on learning one's way around the night sky and progressing to more challenging concepts, each night's activity takes the reader to a deeper level of knowledge and understanding.  All it takes is forty clear nights, and anyone can learn to enjoy the beauty of the heavens.

Splendors of the Universe: A Practical Guide to Photographing the Night Sky

Terence Dickinson, et al, 144 pages (November 1997), Firefly Books; ISBN: 1552091414 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.72 x 11.32 x 9.83
Price: $28

The elegant swirl of a remote spiral galaxy . . . not long ago, capturing such a celestial sight on film was a task limited to major observatory telescopes, but no more. Today, equipped with modern photographic films, the dedicated backyard astronomer can take great color pictures. This book displays more than 200 celestial portraits and offers photographic tips for both novice and experienced sky photographers. Full color.

365 Starry Nights : An Introduction to Astronomy for Every Night of the Year

Chet Raymo, Reissue edition (September 1992) 
Simon & Schuster (Paper); ISBN: 0671766066, Dimensions (in inches): 0.65 x 10.97 x 8.57
Price: $13

365 Starry Nights is a unique and fascinating introduction to astronomy designed to give you a complete, clear picture of the sky every night of the year. Divided into 365 concise, illustrated essays, it focuses on the aesthetic as well as the scientific aspects of stargazing. It offers the most up-to-date information available, with hundreds of charts, drawings, and maps-that take you beyond the visible canopy of stars and constellations into the unseen realm of nebulae and galaxies.  This simple yet substantial text is full of critical information and helpful hints on how to observe the stars; describe their position; calculate their age, brightness, and distance; and much more. Whether you observe the sky with a telescope or the naked eye, 365 Starry Nights makes the infinite intimate and brings the heavens within your grasp. Keep this invaluable, informative guide close at hand, and you'll find that the sky is the limit 365 nights a year.


Introduction to the Night Sky - Part III

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Introduction to the Night Sky - Part IV

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