Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky
This excellent field guide is comprised of over 700 pages of information and numerous photos and charts relating to a wide range of astronomical knowledge. It covers everything from the basic information an astronomer needs to get started to detailed information about the constellations and the solar system. While this book is geared towards the newer amateur astronomer there is still plenty of useful information for the more advanced amateur. For the price there is no reason not to include this book in any amateur astronomer’s collection.
The layout of this book is quite simple and straight-forward. The “chapters” in the book are arranged in a logical order for the novice astronomer. The book starts with a simple overview of the universe and the objects found within. It also includes definitions for the major object types (planetary nebulae, nova, etc…) and information about the different types of galaxies found throughout the known universe. Other sections in the Introduction cover stars and star formation, the solar system, units of measure, types of telescopes and how to use them, as well as constellations and star names. Reading from beginning to the end of this 96 page section is arguably all the novice amateur needs to get a good start in amateur astronomy.
This section contains all of the color plates (photos, maps, and charts) found within the book. This section begins with pictures and maps of the moon during its various monthly phases. On one side of the page there is a picture of the moon and on the opposite side of the page there is an atlas with labels of most of the major visible objects. The guide then jumps into Northern and Southern hemisphere views of the celestial sphere as well as Zodiac charts. Next there are the monthly sky charts. Two pages are dedicated to each month and show charts of the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West). These charts show the major stars and constellations found during each month. It is this section that is an invaluable guide to the beginner in order to learn the night sky. There is then a section dedicated to charts of each constellation (Northern and Southern hemispheres) in the night sky. These charts show stars to mag. 5 and the Messier object locations as well as a few of the other brighter objects. As it turns out the charts in this section are perfect for binocular observers and urban observers alike. Next there are some fairly useless photos of the constellations. Lastly this section includes photos of most of the Messier objects and well as some of the other bright celestial wonders. The photo section also has planetary views (both amateur and professional) and pictures of extraordinary occurrences such as comets, auroras, and many more. In total there are over 400 pages of charts, maps, and pictures in this section. Very few other books out there can match this sum and none of them in such a compact format.
This is where the real information in this book is found. After looking at pictures of the constellations in Section I you are then treated to an encyclopedia of the constellations. For each constellation there is information covering the name, size, history and mythology, stars, clusters, nebulae, and galaxies contained within. These explanations cover well over 200 pages with easy and informative information. There is also a section dedicated to short monthly sky tours and information on the various objects of the solar system.
The appendix covers almost 100 more pages with more information pertaining to the moon, planets, stars, and deep sky objects. This section is loaded with charts and graphs geared towards the slightly more advanced amateur. However those who have read the complete book are well suited to understand the information found within the index.
Like I have said in previous reviews, it is very hard to find many negative aspects to any reference book. Plainly stated there are no negatives what so ever to this book. How could you complain about a book that offers so much knowledge for such a low price.
ConclusionWhile geared towards the novice this book is actually useful and informative for astronomers of all levels. Whether this is your primary tome of knowledge of just a quick reference guide is should serve its purpose admirably. Add to this the size of the book (it is almost small enough to fit in a pocket) and you have a highly portably guide to the stars. Also as I mentioned earlier in this review this book is perfect for binocular or small telescope observers and those of us who are confined to bright urban areas. I have also found that the book is highly durable which also lends itself to the fact that it is an excellent field guide. On a scale of 10 this book easily earns its 10.
Submitted by Curt Irwin - firstname.lastname@example.org - Grand Rapids, Michigan