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What book(s) got you started in astronomy?

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#1 H-D Moose

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 09:00 PM

After recovering from surgery for the better part of a month and now feeling better, the weather has been lousy all week and there's about zero chance of observing Sunday's lunar eclipse. With that said, I thought I'd try to start a new conversation as I catch-up on some reading. The question:

 

What book or books got you started in astronomy?

 

The first two books I owned were "The Sky Observer's Guide" and "Stars" (A Golden Guide) with my first small telescope as a kid (circa 1974). However, I immediately realized I needed something better so I secured a library card. My friend, Jon, and I would walk about 2-miles one-way to the library every Saturday morning. I would checkout "Amateur Astronomy" by Patrick Moore, published in 1968. And when that was due, I'd return it and exchange it for "The Amateur Astronomer's Handbook" by James Muirden - also the 1968 edition. I'd essentially trade those two books for each other over and over and over as much as the library would allow me to do so. On the Saturday's that no books were due, we'd still walk to the library. I'd run the librarian's ragged retrieving old Sky & Telescope issues from the basement via the dumbwaiter. After a while, they put a limit on me that I could only request x-number at a time. I forget how many was the limit, but I know I must have really annoyed them.

 

So, I say "thank you" to Sir Patrick Moore and James Muirden as they were my first "professional teachers". And I also thank my friend Jon. He was one year older but more experienced with a telescope and he taught me a lot. Jon passed away about 15-years ago in his late-30s from cancer. May he be resting in peace and gazing the universe from a vantage point without worry of seeing conditions, transparency, nor Cloudy Nights!!

 

Troy

 

 


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#2 DSObserver2000

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 09:15 PM

"Skywatching" by David Levy was my first astronomical literature. It changed me from strictly a meteor observer to a deep-sky, meteor, double star, planetary, moon kind of astronomer. :grin:


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#3 jim kuhns

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 09:58 PM

Leslie Peltier Starlight Night and H.A. Rey The Constellations. Both classics.


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#4 4BINNI

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 10:20 PM

"The Amateur Astronomer" by Patrick Moore. First published in 1957. And yes, I still have that copy. Even if it does date me a bit.
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#5 Kidastronomer

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 10:26 PM

A book called "Night Sky". I can't remember the author.
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#6 H-D Moose

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 10:49 PM

4BINNI,

 

The book I referenced in my original post - "Amateur Astronomy" by Patrick Moore, published in 1968 - was first published in 1957 under the title "The Amateur Astronomer".  Great book :)


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#7 bobzeq25

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Posted 26 September 2015 - 11:50 PM

OK, upfront, I'm old.  But this book predates me, it was almost certainly given to me by my mother when I was maybe 10-12.  She was involved in the used/rare book business.  Probably picked out from an estate collection, thousands were published, it had/has little monetary value.

 

"An Introduction to Astronomy" by Robert H. Baker

 

An astronomy textbook, first published in 1935.  I have the second edition, 1940.  There are several more, the last I could find was 1968.

 

From the Wikipedia article about Dr. Baker.  "...have gone through many editions and numerous revisions. Reviewers invariably refer to them as “classics” and as the “standard by which other texts in astronomy are measured.”  "Dr. Baker took special pride in these books as indicated by the fact that he kept them up to date with periodic revisions even after retirement."

 

Galaxies, which were known to be assemblages of stars, are called nebulae, "also known as galaxies."  When the book refers to Hubble's pictures, it means _Hubble's_ pictures.  <smile>  Jupiter has eleven satellites, Neptune one, Pluto (about which there is very little information), zero.

 

But things like Kepler's theories are discussed.

 

At the end it refers to the universe as 500 million light years across.  But "The radius may well be extended when the great telescope of the Hale Observatory on Mount Palomar is in operation."

 

Mine looks exactly like this (somewhat more used).

 

http://www.ebay.com/...sd=191536736379


Edited by bobzeq25, 27 September 2015 - 12:01 AM.

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#8 Rick Woods

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 01:03 AM

No books. I was into astronomy before I could read. When I learned, I started getting books from the library. (I had a library card before I was in kindergarten.) After that, anything and everything our local branch had. Luckily, I grew up in a family where reading was very important.


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#9 David Knisely

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 01:28 AM

The original 1964 edition of FIELD GUIDE TO THE STARS AND PLANETS by Donald Menzel was my first "serious" book.  For years, a bunch of use "competed" to get it checked-out from our Junior High School library.  My parents had previously gotten me Patrick Moore's AMATEUR ASTRONOMY, but it was so bereft of information regarding where to look for deep-sky objects that I soon gave up on it.  However, once I got a copy of the Field Guide for myself, the sky opened up and I was finally able to find things with my little Sears Discoverer 2.4 inch f/11.67 refractor.  However, on the "science" end, I had to wait until college to get my first "serious" astronomical science book, INTRODUCTORY ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS by Smith and Jacobs.  I have gone few several editions (and differning authors) of the work, but I still refer to it now and then as a good quick reference.  Clear skies to you.    


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#10 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 06:52 AM

The first book I ever read on Astronomy was "The Stars" by Zim.

 

Rich (RLTYS)


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#11 Freya

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 06:55 AM

My interest in astronomy was sparked around 1967 by a set of encyclopedias - Newnes Pictorial Knowledge. I read the astronomy section over and over again. I also frequently borrowed Patrick Moore's Amateur Astronomy from the library, and ran up some serious library fines for not returning it on time. This wasn't because I was too lazy to go to the library, it was because the librarian told me that the astronomy books were too difficult for me and I should borrow something more suitable for an 11-year-old girl. So I didn't want to return it in case they wouldn't let me have it again!

 

My sisters and I spent hours reading Newnes Pictorial Knowledge. We would copy the drawings of planets, flowers, animals, etc., and even copied out pages of text into our own personal notebooks - even though we owned the encyclopedia! In addition to the astronomy section, my favourite sections were botany, the oceans, and Greek and Roman myths.


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#12 macpurity

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 08:55 AM

Those of us in our 50's and 60's, who developed astro interests as pre-teens, likely got started with the help of similar literature. Folks have already mentioned Rey's Contellations, Zim's Golden guides, Olcott's and Menzel's field guides, and all of these were foundational books for me.

 

In the reference section of my public library, I used the book by Howard, The Telescope Handbook and Star Atlas. I nearly wore out their copy before receiving my own during my high school years. It's onion paged overlays of deep sky obects overlaid hand drawn charts. Studying it, with Menzel's guide nearby, ultimately taught me much about the limits of my equipment, in the Southern California desert.


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#13 jwheel

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 09:29 AM

The Sky Observers Guide and a Golden Guide to the Stars.


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#14 desertstars

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 12:16 PM

The earliest book I can recall is Neely's A Primer for Star Gazers. My father obtained a copy when I was very small so he would be able to teach his children about the constellations. Later, those same Golden Guides so many have already mentioned,  Stars and The Sky Observer's Guide increased my fascination. Just as I started high school, I found a copy of Olcott's Field Book of the Skies in the library, and that book turned me into an observer. It was soon aided and abetted by a copy of Muirden's Amateur Astronomer's Handbook. I still have these books, and the old 60mm refractor I used during those years.


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#15 faackanders2

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 01:14 PM

Patrick MOORE'S "ATLAS OF THE UNIVERSE".  Read it cover to cover.  And then when I saw Saturn through a telecope and noticed I could see Saturn naked eye as a star I was hooked.


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#16 fitter328

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 03:01 PM

Being a rookie at this hobby, my first (and favourite) book is Nightwatch. It's also the first thing I recommend budding astronomers buy prior to getting any equipment. 

 

Cheers,

John


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#17 Man in a Tub

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 05:31 PM

You gotta start somewhere:

 

All About the Stars by Anne Terry White (1954)*

 

Stars: A Guide to the Constellations, Sun, Moon, Planets and other Features of the Heavens by Herbert Zim & Robert Baker (1951)

 

*P.S. I was amazed when I read that Venus can cast a shadow. I've remembered that detail for sixty years!


Edited by Man in a Tub, 29 September 2015 - 02:58 PM.


#18 Rick Woods

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 05:35 PM

The Zim book was one of the first I actually owned.



#19 AngryHandyman

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 08:25 PM

I got started in my mid 30s only a few years ago. I was looking for a hobby that would be different from my IT career - something technology free (or at least mostly tech free) and that I could do on my own in the evenings after the kids went to bed. My wife gifted me Terence Dickinson's book Nightwatch and I quickly followed that with The Backyard Astromoner's Guide written with Alan Dyer. They offered the practical advice I needed to take the plunge and invest in binoculars and then a few months later, my 6" Starblast dob. I also enjoyed Astronomy Hacks by Robert and Barbara Thompson. Not having the time to join a local club where I could learn from experienced locals and having never actually seen a scope in person before, I found great success with these books. They provided so much great practical information and definitely contributed to my beginning months in astronomy being a lot of fun.

 

Turn Left at Orion and S&T's Pocket Sky Atlas soon followed and are great observing tools. Peter Birren's Object's in the Heaven's rounded out my beginning round of book purchases, giving me a terrifically curated list of objects in the sky that ensured I always had something interested to look at even without pre-planning my evening. I still use it every viewing session. I've since discovered many other wonderful books, but these are the ones that I got started with. I refer to them still and recommend them to others whenever I have the opportunity!

 

Clear skies!



#20 brisdob

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Posted 27 September 2015 - 08:37 PM

Patrick Moore's the Amateur Astronomer.  Seventh edition 1971.  I got this for Christmas round about 1974 together with a 60mm Eq mounted refractor (Prinz brand in the UK, probably round the F12 to F15 mark) Still have the well worn book with muddy fingerprints on the maps (charts would be too generous a word) and my pencilled notes on the pages.  After that Norton's.

 

As an afterthought, I used to gaze at the maps of the Southern skies in the Amateur Astronomer for hours on end wondering what the objects (Omega Centauri, Jewel Box etc) would actually look like.  Now I know.  On the other hand, I used to be able to star hop or have a good guess at where to find most of the Northern Sky objects by finding a close by star in the finder and allowing the telescope to drift for a few minutes until they appeared in the eyepiece.  I moved to Australia around 15 years ago and all my equipment since then has been Go To and I am not as familiar with the Southern skies and do feel that something has been lost.  Possibly that sense of joy when something that you were not searching for appears in the eyepiece and you think 'WOW - What is that?"


Edited by brisdob, 27 September 2015 - 08:56 PM.


#21 Rick Woods

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 01:39 AM

 I moved to Australia around 15 years ago and all my equipment since then has been Go To and I am not as familiar with the Southern skies and do feel that something has been lost.  Possibly that sense of joy when something that you were not searching for appears in the eyepiece and you think 'WOW - What is that?"

 

That's definitely a minus for go-to.



#22 Stellarfire

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Posted 28 September 2015 - 10:15 AM

Back in 1974, this was my starter book into astronomy:

 

"Die Erforschung der Planeten", by Iain Nicolson

 

Stephan

 

Titel Die Erforschung der Planeten.jpg


Edited by Stellarfire, 28 September 2015 - 10:16 AM.

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#23 JonNPR

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 03:04 AM

Far from an observing book, but for me it was Fred Hoyle's "Frontiers of Astronomy." A gift from my sister's high school boyfriend. Not sure what he was thinking, since I was only 7 or 8 years old at the time! But I worked through it. Cosmically wrecked my brain for years. In a good way. Built a terrible telescope in a tiny cardboard tube, and finally got my Dad to take us to Edmund Scientific and get that white tube 4 1/4" Newtonian for my 11th Christmas. Still have it. 

 

Jon



#24 Man in a Tub

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 03:00 PM

Far from an observing book, but for me it was Fred Hoyle's "Frontiers of Astronomy."

 

Jon

 

My goodness! I had that book too!


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#25 jackofalltrades

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 04:25 PM

For me it was an early second edition of the Peterson Field Guide Stars and Planets. I couldn't afford a full-size atlas at the time so used the scaled down Tirion SkyAtlas that's in the book. I wore the book out until it fell apart. I really like that little book, and am on my second one now; of course keeping it around now is more an act of loyalty and fondness rather than need or actual use.


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