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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: Backyard Guide to the Night Sky


Every once in a while, you'll find those books that make you think "Man, I wish I had that book when I started this hobby..." This book, National Geographic's Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, is one of those books. In fact, I'd rank it right up there with Turn Left at Orion.

Backyard Guide to the Night Sky distinguishes itself from most beginner's books with one thing, though: information, and lots of it! This book boasts 287 pages of full-color illustrations, charts, and star maps! More than just a quick introduction, Backyard Guide will take you through everything you'll need to know to understand the night sky.

Backyard Guide contains information on stars, planets, and deep sky objects. It doesn't stop at the basics though, and goes on to show such interesting ideas as the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the history of most of the objects, and tips on viewing them. For example, regarding Saturn's moons, the book reads:

"The structure of Saturn's rings has provided a massive laboratory for studying the intricacies of gravity. For example, scientists view some of Saturn's moons as critical in keeping order among the millions of ice particles that the rings comprise. The so-called shepherd moons - Pan, Atlas, Pandora, and Prometheus - straddle two of the rings and act like herders to keep them intact."
While the book contains a lot of information, it doesn't get wallowed down in technical terms, either. All the concepts are laid out in easy to understand ways. Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to get into astronomy or is just starting out. The book is reasonably sized, so it can be carried around to the field, and used as a reference, too. It would also make a great Christmas gift for any science-y type you may know!

National Geographic's Backyard Guide to the Night Sky is available at Amazon.

Clear skies!

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