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Observer's Handbook - 2019 Updated Preview

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Observer's Handbook 2016

(2019 Updated Preview)

Tom Trusock (updated by D. Moser)

December 2015 (September 2018)

(With apologies to Tom, his fine and fun review has been linked to the home page of Cloudy Nights for the last few years. I figured it was time for an update. But it has to be a preview, since the next edition for 2019 isn’t out yet—but it will be at any time now. [See the last paragraph for places to order.]

Annotations in red are my update, but full disclosure means I should tell you that I used to be a sales coordinator for the Astronomical League.)

This is always a tough article to write (or to update).  Seriously, how do you sum up the RASC Observers handbook?  Yeah, it’s a little book.  BUT it’s STILL about EVERYTHING in amateur astronomy.

The easy thing to do would be for me to say - if you’re an amatuer astronomer, you need this book, especially if you are a novice.  So…

If you’re an amateur astronomer, you need this book. Even an experienced one could use this book. If you are in between, then you really need this book.

Ok.  Done.

Wait... Um,  What?

Y’all got questions?  Sighhh…. I knew that was too easy.  No, I guess I don’t really expect you to buy this on that kind of a statement.  Heck, I probably wouldn’t either (Nope).  And, well, I know me (ditto).  So, let me try for a summation (plus some annotations.)

There’s a sense of history lurking within the pages.  The first edition was published in 1907, making the Observer’s Handbook one of the oldest (and one of the most widely available) scientific publications in North America.  (Fitting, as the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's roots date back to the 1800s.)  Since it’s inception, the RASC has striven to make it a handbook indispensable to the Amateur Astronomer, a challenge that in the age of the internet (and social media) takes a lot to make happen.

Now begin with dozens of contributors submitting tens of articles.   And big name contributors too - folks like: Alan Dyer, Fred Espenak, Geoff Gaherty, David Levy, Allan Rahill and Alister Ling. Other names on that list will be familiar to avid astronomical readers. (I wonder if any lurk or post on Cloudy Night forums?)

In addition to new contributors, some new content is added every year and some sections are revised and updated. For 2018, the RASC partnered with the Astronomical League to create a USA version of the Handbook. The USA edition continues to be available for 2019.

And the topics? They are well balanced between upcoming astronomical events for 2019 and reference articles on every aspect of observing. For 2018, the heavens cooperated by staging the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, so eclipses were featured in 2018. There might even be something about it in the new edition for 2019. Probably something about the Transit of Mercury, too.

...You’ll find selections on everything from Internet Resources and Education, to target lists for just about any style of observing.  Binocular, telescopic and even radio!  While it won’t replace your star atlas, there are constellation finding charts and a moon map.  You’ll find articles on aurora, occultations, comets and eclipses. About various types of stars and the usual deep sky objects. There are introductory articles on optics, binoculars and directories of weather resources.  These live happily alongside lists of star parties (including those in the USA), recommended print and internet resources, and articles about light pollution.  Limiting magnitude, solar observing, martian surface maps and the moons of the gas giants. Lots of tables and data, updated for the upcoming year, every year.

I could go on all afternoon. (Yes, he could, so I could I.)

The Observer's Handbook covers nearly the entire spectrum for the amateur astronomer.  

As an additional plus in today's electronic centric world,  it’s available in print. Really now, it fits in any box, bag or trunk along with your equipment and charts.  No batteries (or data connection) required.  No worries about if your ereader or tablet is charged. Supply your own red light and use it as a reference in the dark, out on the field.  Best yet, it looks good on a bookshelf and makes an effective missile weapon against fauna looking to steal your Naglers. Or it is the paperweight needed to hold one edge of your star chart down in the cool breeze (in easy reach for reference or throwing, as the need arises).

So I’ve at least convinced you it sounds interesting, right?  What’s that?  You’re curious about the 2019 2016 on the cover.  Is that just to denote the latest edition?  Or is it only for use in 2019 2016?

While some of the information is indeed about celestial events occurring during 2019 2016, there’s lots that will ensure the handbook's usefulness well beyond the next year.   (And, I suppose if you were to invent time travel, much of it would be equally applicable in the past as well. Sorry, nothing about wormholes or such in the text, not yet.)

It’s a resource that would be much appreciated in any astronomers observing kit. (Hint, Hint: a fine gift idea, especially since it is so hard to shop for an astronomer.)

NOTE: this is a seasonal item, printed and shipped late in 2018 FOR 2019. Most sources are accepting advanced orders. Your order needs to be now, as not many copies remain available for purchase after 2019 starts.

Haven’t heard enough?  Check out the RASC website and these other known sources for more information:

www.rasc.ca/handbook – can be ordered on estore or by using the form for a postal mail order.

store.astroleague.org – note the advanced order and the timing deadlines for shipping are strict (very few books are held in inventory for sale and usually gone in January). This method enables the League to offer the same discounted price to all customers, though primarily intended as a benefit for League members.

Both Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazine have had the Handbook available for purchase on their webstores in the past, and probably will again. It may be available from other sources as well.

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