Radmila Topalovic and Tom Kerss HarperCollins £9.99 PB
Given this book’s title, you might expect the contents to be limited to the activity of stargazing itself, but this guide offers much more than that. The book opens with an introduction to the night sky, its objects and its phenomena, in which the authors present an enormous amount of valuable information, albeit tersely because of the space available. Unfortunately, a few niggles have crept in here: it offers the easily refuted ‘foreground object comparison’ explanation of the Moon illusion and suggests that averted vision is used “to overcome the blind spot”. It gives ‘minor planet’ and ‘asteroid’ as separate classifications; perhaps the IAU object classifications would have been more advisable.
The real strength of this book is its sections on observing. These range from choosing your observing site, through naked-eye stargazing to the use of binoculars, telescopes and cameras. You are shown, with the aid of charts, how to observe anything from nearby satellites to distant galaxies. The object suggestions include a good variety of both easy and challenging targets for northern and southern hemisphere observers.
But while the colourful photographic illustrations of nebulae are attractive, they may be misleading to beginners, since the eye cannot integrate light as the camera does and, with few exceptions, we see deepsky objects in monochrome. The same applies to the implication that binoculars will show the pink star-forming regions of NGC 2403 – a spiral galaxy.
Jam-packed with useful information and advice, this is an attractively produced resource for modern beginner stargazers.
STEPHEN TONKIN is an experienced astronomer and writes our binocular tour