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Category >>   Getting Started in Astronomy
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A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

by Terence Dickinson
Highly Recommended

184 pages, 4th Edition, September 2006
Level: Beginner

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Sky & Telescope Review: February 1999 p.78-80

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The 4th edition of Terence Dickinson's highly-regarded guidebook for beginning sky watchers. Revised and expanded for use through 2018.

Do you want to learn about Astronomy but don't know where to start? Nightwatch may just be the right book for you. It is written as a complete first book on amateur Astronomy and it has helped thousands of stargazers worldwide through the early stages of celestial exploration.

Nightwatch contains chapters on The Universe, Backyard Astronomy, Stars for all Seasons, Stargazing Equipment (full of good practical advice including factors to consider before you buy your first telescope), Observing Deep Sky Objects, The Planets, Moon and Sun, Solar and Lunar Eclipses, Comets, Meteors and Auroras, Photographing the Night Sky, and Resources.

In addition to 4 seasonal all-sky maps, a set of 20 detailed star charts are included that provide instant information on hundreds of naked-eye, binocular and telescopic objects. Considered by many to be the best book of its kind.

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Amazon.com Customer Comment: The overwhelming number of reviews for this book on Amazon is a testimonial to its stature as a classic introductory stargazing book. The fact that the reviews are uniformly positive testifies to its exceptional quality. Now in its fourth edition, Nightwatch has been introducing amateur astronomers to the night sky for over two decades. Terence Dickinson is a prolific astronomy author and this is one of his most important and enduring works.more»

  The Backyard Astronomer's Guide
by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer
368 pages, 3rd Edition, September 2008
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Highly Recommended

Book Description: What type of telescope is best for beginners? Can I use my camera to take photographs through a telescope? How good are computerized telescope mounts? What charts, books, software and other references do I need? These questions are asked time and again by enthusiastic new amateurs as they take up recreational astronomy.

But accurate, objective and up-to-date information can be hard to find. Throughout the 1990s, the first edition of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide established itself as the indispensable reference to the equipment and techniques used by the modern recreational stargazer. Now, authors Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer have produced an expanded and completely updated edition that again sets the standard for accessible and reliable information on one of the world's most popular hobbies.

Dickinson and Dyer -- both full-time astronomy writers -- bring decades of experience to their task. They explain why telescopes often perform much differently from what the novice expects. They recommend the accessories that will enhance the observing experience and advise what not to buy until you become more familiar with your equipment. They name brands and sources and compare value so that you can be armed with the latest practical information when deciding on your next purchase. Sections on astrophotography, daytime and twilight observing, binocular observing and planetary and deep-sky observing round out this comprehensive guide to personal exploration of the universe. Dickinson and Dyer's elegant yet straightforward approach to a complex subject makes this book an invaluable resource for astronomers throughout North America.

New and updated for the 2008 3rd edition:
  • A 20-page full-color Atlas of the Milky Way provides location and context for hundreds of celestial objects mentioned throughout the book.
  • A chapter on Astrophotography with Digital Cameras specifies what equipment works best and how to use it to collect a color gallery of celestial portraits.
  • Telescopes for Recreational Astronomy features assessments of a wide range of new telescopes, from models for beginners to those for veteran astronomy enthusiasts, with special emphasis on computerized telescopes and how they work.
  • Accessory Catalog spotlights the best of the accessories and flags the frivolous and irrelevant.
  • Three practical appendices: Polar Aligning Your Telescope; Optics Cleaning and Collimation; Testing Your Telescope Optics.

With more than 500 color photographs and illustrations, The Backyard Astronomer's Guide is also one of the most beautiful -- and user-friendly -- astronomy books ever produced.

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Sky & Telescope Review: August 2003 p.72-73 (2nd Ed.)

$32.97 (34% off), Hardcover Buy from Amazon

  Turn Left at Orion
Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope and How to Find Them

by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis
Highly Recommended

256 pages, 600 b/w illus., 20 tables, 4th Edition, November 2011
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

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Turn Left at Orion is widely regarded as the single best guide for the beginner with a new telescope. Using bright stars in the sky, Turn Left at Orion will guide the new telescope owner to dozens of interesting objects even if they don't know the constellations. Contains easy to use finder charts and illustrations that show what the objects actually look like through a telescope. A clear and very readable text.

Description: With over 100,000 copies sold since first publication, this is one of the most popular astronomy books of all time. It is a unique guidebook to the night sky, providing all the information you need to observe a whole host of celestial objects. With a new spiral binding, this edition is even easier to use outdoors at the telescope and is the ideal beginner's book. Keeping its distinct one-object-per-spread format, this edition is also designed for Dobsonian telescopes, as well as for smaller reflectors and refractors, and covers Southern hemisphere objects in more detail. Large-format eyepiece views, positioned side-by-side, show objects exactly as they are seen through a telescope, and with improved directions, updated tables of astronomical information and an expanded night-by-night Moon section, it has never been easier to explore the night sky on your own.

Features (new 4th Edition):

  • Now with double the number of night sky objects to observe.
  • Designed for Dobsonian telescopes, as well as for smaller reflectors and refractors.
  • Covers both Northern and Southern hemispheres.
  • Spiral binding makes it even easier to use outdoors.
Amazon.com Customer Comment: If you are even contemplating the hobby, buy this book. Spiral binding gives huge, easy-to-reference diagrams and descriptions for those who have never looked down a scope. I own a dobsonian 8" and can confirm the sketches as dead-on for what you can expect to see. Painfully easy to use. more»
  Patterns in the Sky
An Introduction to Stargazing

by Ken Hewitt-White
104 pages, November 2006
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Description: Did you ever wonder exactly what constellation you're seeing when you look up at the night sky? The first book in our Night Sky: Astronomy for Everyone Series will guide even the absolute beginner through the constellations in no time! An extensive introduction guides the reader through the basics of constellation observing, and the convenient season-by-season organization of the text makes observing throughout the year a snap. Patterns in the Sky emphasizes what anyone can see from a typical suburban backyard and concentrates on just-for-fun, naked-eye stargazing -- no optical aid required! Perfect for ages 10 to adult.

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$10.36 (20% off), Softcover Buy from Amazon

  The Stars
A New Way to See Them

by Hans Augusto Rey
160 pages, September 1976
Level: Beginner

Highly Recommended

A classic! Widely recognized as one of the best books for learning the constellations. Written in a unique, simple style that is suitable for young and older stargazers alike. Contains many wonderful illustrations to help teach the novice stargazer about the night sky. Also contains a collection of simple star charts for year round use.

Reading Level: All Ages
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$  9.59 (20% off), Paperback Edition Buy from Amazon
$17.82 (34% off), Hardcover Edition (Sept'08) Buy from Amazon

  The Next Step: Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects
by Ken Graun
352 pages, March 2005
Level: Beginner

Description: In 1752, Charles Messier left the small French town of Badonviller for employment in Paris as an astronomer's assistant. In the following years, he discovered 20 comets and compiled the first catalogue of over 100 objects listing star clusters, nebulae and galaxies collectively called Deep Sky Objects. Today, Messier's catalogue is often the first set of Deep Sky Objects observed by budding amateurs wanting to go beyond viewing the Moon, Planets and Sun.

The Next Step is a complete field guide to discovering Messier's objects -- a celestial road map for the successful navigation and exploration of these beautiful heavenly bodies. Experience space anew by taking the next step into the cosmos.

  • Easy to understand, written especially for the novice amateur astronomer.
  • Complete set of color star charts for locating every Messier object.
  • Scale photographs, up-to-date information and easy-to-use spreads for each object.
  • Expanded catalogue now includes 112 objects.
  • New historical information about Charles Messier's childhood and journey to Paris.

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$29.95, Hardcover Buy from Amazon

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

by Chet Raymo (author of An Intimate Look at the Night Sky)
225 pages, September 1992
Level: Beginner

Highly Recommended

Book Description: 365 Starry Nights is a unique and delightful 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 up-to-date information, with hundreds of charts, drawings, and maps (sample page) 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 unaided 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.

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$12.71 (25% off), Paperback Buy from Amazon

  Star Watch
The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning About over 125 Celestial Objects

by Philip S. Harrington
312 pages, July 2003
Level: Beginner

Book Description: The night sky is alive with many wonders -- distant planets, vast star clusters, glowing nebulae, and expansive galaxies, all waiting to be explored. Let respected astronomy writer Philip Harrington introduce you to the universe in Star Watch, a complete beginner's guide to locating, observing, and understanding these celestial objects. You'll start by identifying the surface features of the Moon, the banded cloud tops of Jupiter, the stunning rings of Saturn, and other members of our solar system. Then you'll venture out beyond our solar system, where you'll learn tips and tricks for finding outstanding deep-sky objects from stars to galaxies, including the entire Messier catalog -- a primary goal of every serious beginner.

Star Watch features a detailed physical description of each target, including size, distance, and structure, as well as concise directions for locating the objects, handy finder charts, hints on the best times to view each object, and descriptions of what you'll really see through a small telescope or binoculars and with the unaided eye.

Philip S. Harrington is a contributing editor for Astronomy magazine and has been published in most leading astronomy periodicals. He is also the author of Star Ware, Touring the Universe through Binoculars, and Astronomy for All Ages.

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$11.53 (32% off), Paperback Buy from Amazon

  Binocular Stargazing
by Mike D. Reynolds
160 pages, September 2005
Level: Beginner

Description: Many people assume that amateur stargazers must invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in equipment before they can enjoy the wonders of the night sky. The truth is, though, that all you need is a simple pair of binoculars. This handy, easy-to-follow guide explains how to observe everything from the moon to meteor showers with binoculars and provides safety tips for viewing eclipses. It also includes separate sections for winter, spring, summer, and fall that give advice on what to look for and how to optimize your viewing. Ideal for budding astronomers of all ages, Binocular Stargazing is the perfect way to see the night sky through new eyes.

About the Author: Mike D. Reynolds is an Astronomy professor and executive director emeritus of the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California. He is the author of numerous scientific publications, as well as the book Falling Stars. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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$10.36 (20% off), Paperback Buy from Amazon

  David Levy's Guide to the Night Sky
by David Levy
368 pages, 2nd Edition, December 2001

Book Description: If, as Immanuel Kant once said, we are guided by the starry sky above and the moral law within, then, thanks to David Levy, we can now conceptualize Kant's adage at least half-way. David Levy's Guide to the Night Sky is designed to satisfy observers who have just become interested in the sky and want to navigate their way around it. By stirring the imagination and putting observation in a framework of personal adventure, Levy explains how to discover the Moon, planets, comets, meteors, and distant galaxies through a small telescope. Fully updated, the new edition includes:

  • A new section on the computer-controlled telescopes and how to use this new technology;
  • One new chapter on how charge-coupled devices (CCDs) have revolutionized the art of astronomical observation
  • An explanation of how a new variable star is discovered and studied, based on Levy's personal experience.

Levy explores topics as diverse as the features of the Moon from night to night; how to observe constellations from both urban and rural observation sites; how best to view the stars, nebulae, and galaxies; and how to map the sky.

David H. Levy is one of the world's foremost amateur astronomers. He has discovered 17 comets, seven using a telescope in his own backyard, and had a minor planet, Asteroid 3673 Levy, named in his honor. As a respected astronomer, he is best known for being the co-discoverer of the famous Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet in 1994.

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$27.05 (18% off), Paperback Buy from Amazon

  Exploring the Night Sky With Binoculars
A Companion Book to the Night Sky Planisphere

by David S. Chandler and Don Davis (illustrator)
46 pages, January 1995
Level: Beginner

Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars is a small book written to complement The Night Sky planisphere (by the same author). The planisphere helps stargazers find what is up in the sky for any day and time. The book discusses the significance of what is seen.

The book starts with a discussion of how to observe the sky and how to choose binoculars with astronomy in mind. Then comes a brief geography lesson of the universe, including helpful models to keep in mind when trying to visualize large numbers, such as millions, billions, and trillions. The bulk of the book is a survey, starting with the Sun and its family of planets, moons, asteroids and comets, then moves outward into the Milky Way with its nebulae, stellar remnants, open star clusters, and globular star clusters, and finally out beyond the Milky Way to the realm of the galaxies. Examples of each kind of object are given that are visible with no more than binoculars, and each is discussed with enough detail to make it meaningful but not overwhelming to the beginner.

The appendices include seasonal tours of the sky, tips on buying your first telescope, and a resource guide for those who want to go further.

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  $9.50, Paperback Buy from Amazon

  Constellations of the Northern Skies
National Audubon Society Pocket Guides

by Gary Mechler, Mark R. Chartrand and Wil Tirion (illustrator)
192 pages, April 1995
Level: Beginner

The National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Constellations is a compact guide to the night sky of the northern hemisphere. It contains full-color seasonal sky charts which are perfect for the beginning stargazer to use in learning the sky. Full-color charts are provided for each constellation showing bright stars and deep-sky objects. Descriptions of the objects in each constellation are also provided on the facing page.

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$9.95, Paperback Buy from Amazon

  Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide
by Dinah L. Moché
368 pages, 6th Edition, February 2004
Level: Beginner

Book Description: From the galaxies and the stars and planets they comprise to the mysteries of black holes, the Big Bang, and the possibility of life on other planets, this book clearly explains the essentials usually covered in an introductory college-level course in astronomy and space exploration.

Its unique self-teaching format lets beginners easily and quickly grasp basic principles. You are constantly actively involved in learning astronomy using:

  • Star and Moon maps that identify objects in the sky. [Note, star maps comprise only 4 seasonal all-sky maps drawn for 40° north]
  • Objectives, reviews, and self-tests that monitor your progress.
  • Simple activities that help you to test basic principles on your own.
Dinah L. Moché, PhD, is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the City University of New York. An award-winning author and lecturer, her books have sold over nine million copies in seven languages.

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$14.16 (29% off), Paperback Buy from Amazon

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Skymaps.com/store -- Recommended Books & Products for Skywatchers
New BooksStar AtlasesGetting StartedObserving GuidesPlanispheresTelescope BooksKids BooksSky Lore
DVDsSoftwareAstroPhotographyStar Map PostersTelescopes & BinocularsAstro Calendar 2015Digital Prints

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