Meet The Spacewriter Links to sites of Interest The Library and Gift Shop The Spacewriter's Blog Henrietta Leavitt Flat Screen Space Theater Visions of the Cosmos Gallery About this website Home Page
Other Astronomy-Related Items Star Tales and Mythology practical and beginners general interest

Stikky Night Skies, from Lawrence Holt Books. ISBN: 1932974016. 2004

This is a really useful and unique little book that teaches you how to find a set of constellations in very easy steps. It has star pages marked with circles and lines and explanations about how to find six constellations, four stars, a planet, a galaxy, and complete navigation instructions. And, they say you can do it in about an hour! I played with it for a couple of hours just because that's the way I am, but it's really that easy. At about $12.00, it's the gift that'll keep on giving (and teaching), whether you buy it for someone else or get it for your own collection.

Deep-Sky Wonders, from Sky Publishing Corporation. ISBN: 093334693X. 1998

This was the first book I edited for Sky Publishing Corporation and I learned a great deal from "Scotty" (as he was known) as I worked on the project with Stephen J. O'Meara. SteveO (or, as HE was sometimes called "Old Iron-Eyes O'Meara") was responsible for selecting from nearly 50 years worth of columns that Scotty wrote for Sky & Telescope Magazine, and then sending them along to me for tech editing, image selection, and layout. That was a complex project, and one I"m most proud of. Many a night I've been out observing and remember some little hidden trick of Scotty's for spotting some dim, distant little glow, or traversing the sky in a well-rehearsed star-hop. Reading this book is like sitting at the knee of the master, learning the mysteries of the sky from a man who knew it well!

NightWatch, by Terence Dickinson. ISBN: 1552093026.

Although I have dozens and dozens of astronomy books, there are those "golden" works that belong on every stargazer's bookshelf — whether you're a beginner just thinking about getting started or you're an old pro itching to pass along your passion to the new kids. Nightwatch is one of the "golden ones" of my collection. The latest edition (third) is spiral bound to make it easier to lay out flat while you're out in the field. What I like best about the book are its clear explanations about telescopes and binoculars, coupled with easy-to-use star charts. Highly recommended!

Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars, by David Chandler. ISBN: 189193810X. 1995, David Chandler.

This is a great little book that's easy to tuck into the binocular bag along with a star chart as you're headed out for your first astronomy session. But, this one comes in handy long before you ever get outside. Read it before you decide which binoculars to buy.

Stars and Planets, by Jay M. Pasachoff (succeeding the late Donald H. Menzel). Star charts by Wil Tirion. ISBN 0395934311. Peterson Field Guides series, 2000, Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston.

This is what it says — a good field guide to the stars and planets. Chock full of good stuff to know when you're stargazing or contemplating looking for some celestial goodies. Back when I was first starting out in the planetarium biz, I laid hands on an earlier edition of this book and it was a quick and handy guide to sky objects for lectures and scripts. The copy currently on my shelf is the fifth one I've owned. The star charts are superb, the sky images are up-to-date and useful, and the color plate section really brings the cosmos alive. Jay and Wil put a lot of work into this book!

SkyAtlas 2000.0, by Wil Tirion and Roger W. Sinnott, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521627621.

Looking for a good set of star charts you can take outdoors and use at the 'scope? This spiral-bound book of star charts is one of the best around, created by two masters of starcharting. The atlas has 26 charts that show the stars, nebulas and galaxies in an easily-seen scale, and is labelled accurately and precisely. I've had one of these on my shelf for several years now — it's an indispensable aid for the serious astronomer.

Planispheres by David Chandler.

I never venture out without a planisphere. These handy little guides to the night sky turn up in the darndest places! When I was a ship's lecturer a few years ago, I brought along a couple to use, along with printed star charts for any cruise passengers who wanted to do a little freelance stargazing on the nights we weren't doing star parties. The star wheels were a big hit! These well-designed wheels from David Chandler come in two sizes and a variety of latitudes. Simply figure out what latitude you live at (or near) and order that size. Stick it in with your binoculars and you'll be ready for stargazing any time. I know some folks who keep a starwheel in their car glove compartment.

Great for Beginners

Find the Constellations, by H.A. Rey. ISBN 0-395-24509-5. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

We grew up with this one — the stick figure constellation outlines and skyviews that Rey used to teach the sky have always been our favorites. A great first book to give kids — and adults! A cool anecdote about this book: in 1996 I wrote a show for the Einstein Planetarium at the National Air And Space Museum called SkyQuest. In it, we trace a little girl's interest and her ultimate career as an astronomer. One section has a scene with her sitting under the stars at night with a copy of this book in her lap as she uses it to find her way around the sky. Lots of people commented on how they grew up using that book and how neat it was to see it still in use today and in the show!

The Stars: A New Way to See Them, by H.A. Rey. ISBN 0395248302. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

This is another one we grew up with, and a book we have given to so many friends and relatives as another way of helping people learn the sky. It's liberally laced with star charts, viewing hints, little mnemonics for remembering how to find things in the sky, and — of course — written in H.A. Rey's inimitable style. Mark used to correspond with H.A. as a child and some of his most cherished memories revolve around those letters. Every year a new generation of stargazers awakens to the fun of skywatching using Rey's books; won't you join them?