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List some good beginner books

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#1 Gigatron

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:50 PM

Hey gang,

I keep seeing new people pop in and ask for advice on new equipment and people invariably mention some books here and there, but I was thinking maybe we could start a comprehensive list of the best beginner/intermediate books and what they're each best at.

For instance;

book XXX, by author ZZZ - really good at explaining the basics of astronomy and telescope optics

boox YYY, by author AAA - explains how to star hop in poor skies

or whatever, but you get my point. I've been reading post after post trying to find a recommendation for books that would help to find things easier in my crummy skies while looking at inverted views. I don't know if such a book exists, but if it does, I want to know about it.

So, list away. As the list grows, I'll try and add them to one post so that people dodn't have to scan through all the posts to read.

-Fred

BEGINNING OF THE LIST

(I'll try to list each book only once, so please don't feel sleighted if I didn't use your entry)

Planisphere - really helps to have something to look at while reading most of these books

Turn left at Orion - every beginner should read this. Great introduction into small aperature observing

Sky & Telescope's pocket atlas - should be in everyone's collection. Small and easy to understand seasonal sky charts

"Star Watch" by Philip Harrington - Great introduction into the night sky

Nightwatch by Terrence Dickinson

Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terrence Dickinson
for beginners, & intermediates: good information on selection of equipment, how to observe.

Messier Marathon by Pennington:
for any level, has Telrad maps & description of each, highly recommended!

Advanced Amateur Astronomy by North:
all around good book for equipment, using it.

Deep Sky Observing, The Astronomical Tourist: by our very own Steven Coe!
Intermediate level. In depth discussion on equipment, observing sites, importance of taking notes. Balance of book has in-depth descriptions with photos & drawings of NGC objects. Very Highly Recommended!

Nebulae and How to Observe Them: by Steven Coe
Intermediate. This is Steve's latest book just released. Again, loaded with information on equipment, how to improve your skills, etc. Then the balance of the book is very informative information on each Nebulae included in this book, along with photos.
Again, Highly recommended!

Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, Vol I, II, III: by Burnham
These books are more for intermediate, but is a must in any Astronomer's library! They have a unique "cult" following. Even if some of the information is since, outdated, Burnham's unique quality of writing is in a class by itself. A Must!!

Deep Sky Companions, Caldwell Objects: by O'Meara
Beginners, Intermediate. I especially like the fact O'Meara has the Caldwell objects in numerical order, you don't have to search to find a particular one. Each has a full description, with a photo.

Deep Sky Companions, The Messier Objects: by O'Meara.
Again, I like the numerical order of the objects, and as in the book above, each has a full description, with a photo.

The Next Step: Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects: Ken Graun
Beginners, All.
This book always goes with me while observing! It also lists the Messier's in numerical order. Each has a full description, type, & levels of observing: inc. Easy, Slightly challenging, etc. This makes it easier for one's expertise, as well as equipment. Each Messier includes a photo thru a 4" refractor at 48X. I find this book invaluable when I'm not sure of what I am observing. Very Highly Recommended!

Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky By Roger N. Clark is a wonderful book! To understand about eyes, visual, learn how to see, photographs and drawing of the same deep sky objects for compares!

"The Stars: A New Way to See Them" by H.A. Rey

** A Walk Through the Heavens ** by Miton Heifetz and Wil Tiron.
(Wil Tiron is a noted star chart chartographer.)
Excellent starter book for the complete novice.
It's a very basic but comprehensive guide to navigating the night sky.
It shows how to use constellations -- the road maps of the sky. By extending an imaginary line from 2-3 stars in one constellation, this line can lead you to another star in another constellation.
The recently published 3rd Edition contains some basic star charts in the back for some easy to find star clusters, double stars, and galaxies.

** Touring the Universe Through Binoculars ** by Philip S. Harrington.
(Mr. Harrington is a well known astronomy author.)
Excellent for the novice stargazer. Lists over 500 objects for binoculars and obviously telescopes.
These are listed by constellation making finding the objects easier.
Mr. Harrington has also divided the Messier list into 4 skill levels (pages 74 & 75) -- easy (22), not so easy (20), difficult (19), and very difficult (40+).
These "levels" are obviously relative/dependent on the observer's eye sight, skills, and instrument(s) used.

"The Universe from your Backyard", a Kalmbach Press constellation guide

Collins Gem "Stars" guide. It's a very compact booklet covering the entire sky (all 88 constellations) for naked-eye observing, with binoculars or with a small telescope.

Discover The Moon by Jean Lacroux, Christian Legrand, Christopher Sutcliffe is a great basic guided tour by day of cycle.

The Modern Moon by Charles Wood is a more indepth guide to the lunar structures but a very entertaining and informative read.

Sue French's "Celestial Sampler" would make an excellent binocular observer's book, beginner or seasoned.

http://www.cloudynig...sb/5/o/all/vc/1

Very Young Reader -- Find the Constellations (H.A. Rey)
Just Starting -- The Monthly Sky Guide (Ian Ridpath)
Constellation Guidebook for star charts -- Constellation Guidebook (Anton Rukl) has avery good all sky reference map on 6 pages
Constellation Guidebook deeper star charts -- Cambridge Guide to Stars and Planets (Patrick moore and Wil Tirion) small but very good constellation charts
Constellation Guidebook for solar System -- DK Stars and Planets (Ian Ridpath)
Star Atlas -- The Cambridge Star Atlas (Wil Tirion)
Deep Sky Catalogue -- Binocular Astronomy (Crossen and Tirion)
Visual Impact Science -- Readers Digest Children's Atlas of the Universe (Burnham)
Planisphere -- Cambridge Starfinder Pack includes All sky map, Moon map and 10" Planisphere

#2 kestrel0222

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:54 PM


If someone is new to astronomy could only get (2) books, I would recommend:

(1) "Star Watch" by Philip Harrington - Great introduction into the night sky

(2) S&T's pocket star atlas. - Easy to read, durable.

These would be the ones that I would start someone off with.

#3 Herenomore

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:00 PM

"Turn Left at Orion"

#4 Kenny2004

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:05 PM

Terence D's: Nightwatch and Backyard Astronomer Guide are probably the definite 2.

#5 csa/montana

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:35 PM

Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terrence Dickinson
for beginners, & intermediates: good information on selection of equipment, how to observe.

Messier Marathon by Pennington:
for any level, has Telrad maps & description of each, highly recommended!

Advanced Amateur Astronomy by North:
all around good book for equipment, using it.

Deep Sky Observing, The Astronomical Tourist: by our very own Steven Coe!
Intermediate level. In depth discussion on equipment, observing sites, importance of taking notes. Balance of book has in-depth descriptions with photos & drawings of NGC objects. Very Highly Recommended!

Nebulae and How to Observe Them: by Steven Coe
Intermediate. This is Steve's latest book just released. Again, loaded with information on equipment, how to improve your skills, etc. Then the balance of the book is very informative information on each Nebulae included in this book, along with photos.
Again, Highly recommended!

Burnham's Celestial Handbooks, Vol I, II, III: by Burnham
These books are more for intermediate, but is a must in any Astronomer's library! They have a unique "cult" following. Even if some of the information is since, outdated, Burnham's unique quality of writing is in a class by itself. A Must!!

Deep Sky Companions, Caldwell Objects: by O'Meara
Beginners, Intermediate. I especially like the fact O'Meara has the Caldwell objects in numerical order, you don't have to search to find a particular one. Each has a full description, with a photo.

Deep Sky Companions, The Messier Objects: by O'Meara.
Again, I like the numerical order of the objects, and as in the book above, each has a full description, with a photo.

The Next Step: Finding and Viewing Messier's Objects: Ken Graun
Beginners, All.
This book always goes with me while observing! It also lists the Messier's in numerical order. Each has a full description, type, & levels of observing: inc. Easy, Slightly challenging, etc. This makes it easier for one's expertise, as well as equipment. Each Messier includes a photo thru a 4" refractor at 48X. I find this book invaluable when I'm not sure of what I am observing. Very Highly Recommended!

Carol

#6 Illinois

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:39 PM

All books above this posts are good!
Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky By Roger N. Clark is a wonderful book! To understand about eyes, visual, learn how to see, photographs and drawing of the same deep sky objects for compares!
S&T Pocket Stars Atlas! I use it a lot of the time, when I was outside to look at the deep sky objects!

#7 Tombstone Sky

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 01:59 PM

I need to list my absolute favorite for those who can find the sky and not much more.

"The Stars: A New Way to See Them" by H.A. Rey, Amazon 10 bucks cheap.

My Dad got this one for me 50 years ago, and I still have a copy. It is a terrific introduction to all of the constellations, but it also discusses astronomy topics (e.g. sidereal time, the solar system, etc) is easy-to-grasp language. For a kid, it can't be beat, and is as cheap a way to get them going that I've run across.

#8 Ronny Floyd

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:09 PM

If you really want to learn how to get around and find objects to look at ......StarWatch by Phillip Harrington

Best book i've ever used to learn star hopping !

#9 Blind-Cyclops

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:23 PM

Hi Gigatron,

** A Walk Through the Heavens ** by Miton Heifetz and Wil Tiron.
(Wil Tiron is a noted star chart chartographer.)
Excellent starter book for the complete novice.
It's a very basic but comprehensive guide to navigating the night sky.
It shows how to use constellations -- the road maps of the sky. By extending an imaginary line from 2-3 stars in one constellation, this line can lead you to another star in another constellation.
The recently published 3rd Edition contains some basic star charts in the back for some easy to find star clusters, double stars, and galaxies.

** Touring the Universe Through Binoculars ** by Philip S. Harrington.
(Mr. Harrington is a well known astronomy author.)
Excellent for the novice stargazer. Lists over 500 objects for binoculars and obviously telescopes.
These are listed by constellation making finding the objects easier.
Mr. Harrington has also divided the Messier list into 4 skill levels (pages 74 & 75) -- easy (22), not so easy (20), difficult (19), and very difficult (40+).
These "levels" are obviously relative/dependent on the observer's eye sight, skills, and instrument(s) used.

** Pocket Sky Atlas ** by Sky & Telescope Magazine.
It is being praised by many.
I must admit, it is a terrific book.

#10 Gigatron

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:38 PM

Excellent suggestions so far, everyone :bow:!!

Please keep them coming. I'll update my first post this evening to keep all the books in one place

-Fred

#11 csa/montana

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:46 PM

Fred: Thank you for starting a very well-deserved thread! I'm sure it will be of interest to everyone, regardless of expertise!

Your work is much appreciated! :bow:

Carol

#12 kestrel0222

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:52 PM

Thanks Fred,

Yes, as Carol has already said, it will be nice to see the complete list put together. It will surely help everyone, beginers and experts alike. Thanks for putting YOUR time into this project.

#13 Gigatron

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 03:56 PM

Thanks everyone. I'm just doing this for all the future newcomers. One thing I never like about joining any forum was having to search a hundred different threads for information.

This place is one of the few forums that are extremely friendly towards newcomers. Most places, newcomers get yelled at and told to perform a search for asking for info that might be considered old or well known by the old timers.

-Fred

#14 Jay_Bird

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 04:07 PM

I'm not sure if Peter Lancaster Brown wrote other books, but his c. 1970 "What Star is That?" was a nice step after my first Golden Book guides and a practical companion ever since my first set of star charts; I recommend it if you can find a used copy. It's a seasonal constellation-by-constellation guide that is a good balance of observing tips, planisphere-like seasonal overviews, and constellation details, with some lists of objects as well. It gives targets for all sizes of scopes and binoculars.

For a more current title, I'm also pleased with paperback "The Universe from your Backyard", a Kalmbach Press constellation guide from Astronomics clearance last year.

Don't forget to point people seeking book and chart advice from "Beginners" to the "Stellar Media" forum further down the list of CN forums...

Best, Jay

#15 csa/montana

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 04:22 PM

This place is one of the few forums that are extremely friendly towards newcomers. Most places, newcomers get yelled at and told to perform a search for asking for info that might be considered old or well known by the old timers (Quote)

Fred: That is what makes Cloudy Nights so very special! Everyone is so supportive & kind to newcomers, as well as seasoned members. I believe we all work very hard to keep Courtesy #1 !

Carol

#16 FirstSight

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 04:23 PM

Regardless of which of the above good suggestions for books you start with, two invaluable companions you should have with you while reading any astro book are:
1) A really good planisphere, which is a tremendous help not just in learning the night sky generally, but helping you easily place any objects discussed in the books into surrounding spatial context.
2) Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas.

With these two tools, you can far more quickly make accurate sense of e.g. the starhopping directions in Harrington's "Star Watch" book than trying to do so from the diagrams in this book alone.

#17 Jay_Bird

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 04:56 PM

Heifitz and Tiorion were mentioned in the authors above. Heifitz designed some great planispheres mentioned in a recent CN thread.

Your point about planispheres is great - and that's one reason to mention the "Seasonal Star Charts" that are comb-bound, 8 sheets of charts (N and S sky by season) with a planisphere on the front cover.

#18 Olivier Biot

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 05:03 PM

Nobody mentioned the Collins Gem "Stars" guide? It's a very compact booklet covering the entire sky (all 88 constellations) for naked-eye observing, with binoculars or with a small telescope.

I always take one with me when I'm travelling...

Cheers!

Olivier

#19 rmcpb

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 05:21 PM

For those interested in the moon:
  • Discover The Moon by Jean Lacroux, Christian Legrand, Christopher Sutcliffe is a great basic guided tour by day of cycle.
  • The Modern Moon by Charles Wood is a more indepth guide to the lunar structures but a very entertaining and informative read.


#20 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 05:28 PM

How about for the beginning astronomer, one that is 8-12 years old, and owns a pair of 7x50s?

Philip Harrington's book is great... just wondering if more could be listed that are binocular specific.

#21 EdZ

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 05:46 PM

See all these Book Suggestions in the Binocular Forum "Best Of" links.

Useful Books for Binocular Observers

also, not mentioned on that page, I think Sue French's "Celestial Sampler" would make an excellent binocular observer's book, beginner or seasoned.

My primary binocular observing charts for everything from 12x50 to 25x100 to BT100 at44x is my 3 ring binder (all marked up) 8.5x11 photocopies of Sky Atlas 2000.0. I have recently purchased PSA, but I use it for quick reference and then still go to the larger charts to see the detail easier. PSA has a lot of detail, but SA2000 has almost twice the scale. And I've been using those photocopied charts for maybe 5-6 years now.

edz

For the Beginning Astronomer (who may not necessarily be 8-10 yo.)
Beginner's Astronomy Books

This is a selection of my picks, who/what it is aimed at

Very Young Reader -- Find the Constellations (H.A. Rey)
Just Starting -- The Monthly Sky Guide (Ian Ridpath)
Constellation Guidebook for star charts -- Constellation Guidebook (Anton Rukl) has avery good all sky reference map on 6 pages
Constellation Guidebook deeper star charts -- Cambridge Guide to Stars and Planets (Patrick moore and Wil Tirion) small but very good constellation charts
Constellation Guidebook for solar System -- DK Stars and Planets (Ian Ridpath)
Star Atlas -- The Cambridge Star Atlas (Wil Tirion)
Deep Sky Catalogue -- Binocular Astronomy (Crossen and Tirion)
Visual Impact Science -- Readers Digest Children's Atlas of the Universe (Burnham)
Planisphere -- Cambridge Starfinder Pack includes All sky map, Moon map and 10" Planisphere, sometimes available all for $10

There's more books in the article.

edz


#22 Gigatron

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:08 PM

first post updated with list of books.

From here on in, please check to see if the book you like is already listed in the first post, as this will save me a ton of trouble :cool:

Thanks and keep them coming!

-Fred

#23 Gigatron

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 08:26 AM

just a bump for the day crew.

-Fred

#24 39.1N84.5W

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:10 AM

thanks, edz.

#25 yg1968

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 11:00 AM

For those interested in DSO imaging, a book called, the New CCD Astronomy by Ron Wodaski is available:

New CCD Astronomy

And for those interested in solar system imaging, a book called the Lunar and Planetary Webcam User's Guide by Martin Mobberley is available:

Lunar and Planetary Webcam User's Guide


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