And now, onward to Christmas

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We are past Thanksgiving, so I guess it's okay to talk about Christmas.

It is difficult to know what to get for your favorite astronomer. Do they need a new Do-dad for their telescope, do they already have that new gizmo you are going to buy, or do they even need what you are planning to get?

It is difficult to buy for the average amateur astronomer, because there are so many gadgets, thing-a-ma-bobs, and whats-its that they might need or want.

That is why I always suggest books. They don't cost a small fortune and they can be used on those cloudy nights when the scope will stay in the garage.

Here are some of my favorite that I use frequently, not in any particular order:

Turn Left At Orion by Guy Consolmagna and Dan M. Davis, published by Cambridge University Press. The joy of this book is the diagrams show you exactly what you will be looking at, no glossy multi-color photographs, just gray pencil drawings.

365 Starry Nights by Chet Raymo, published by Simon and Schuster. This book gives you an entry for every day.

40 Nights To Knowing The Sky by Fred Schaaf, published by Henry Holt and Company. This book is great for basic information about the night sky. Mr. Schaaf is one of the premier authors about astronomy.

Patterns In The Sky by Ken Hewitt-White, published by Sky and Telescope Publishing. This book is great for learning about constellations, it also has some really nice sky maps for spring and summer skies.

The Monthly Sky Guide by Ian Ridpath and Will Tirion, published by Cambridge University Press. This book is great for information about events and activities in the sky on a monthly basis. Just make sure you are getting the current year's edition, because it is good for multiple years. It also has some very nice lunar maps.

Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines are good, relatively inexpensive sources of monthly information. They can be subscribed to online and delivered by mail each month.

Another magazine is Star Date published by The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory. This is another nice source of monthly information. It is published bi-monthly and subscription information can be found at

Night Watch by Terence Dickinson, published by Firefly Books. This is the premier book for any budding astronomer. The information, photographs, and star maps are invaluable to the amateur astronomer too. This book will supply much-needed information.

Event calendars. Astronomy and Sky and Telescope (and others) magazines both publish monthly event calendars, which provide advance information about upcoming events. Even though you have a shelf full of books, it never hurts to have an event calendar.

Lastly, I would recommend a good star atlas to help with finding the location of objects. The one I have also has a planisphere, which helps to find objects by using a date and time circle, a really invaluable item. Mine is the Celestron Sky Map and is published by Hubbard Scientific, Inc.

SKY WATCH: First quarter moon Dec. 7. A six-day-old moon will be hanging out just east of the planet Mars, one-hour after local sunset, on Dec. 5, look above the southern horizon. For all you people who missed the moon occulting Aldebaran you will have a chance for a better view on Dec. 12. The almost-full moon will cover the star from about 8:24-9:38 pm MST. Look in the southeast just above our old friend Orion. This will be a great view in binoculars or telescope.

NEXT WEEK: Christmas is coming and more astronomical blathering.

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