Many people have asked me over the years to suggest books that will help them study the constellations and stars.
This column will review three books I read during my early years of the hobby.
These three were the most important to me in my early interest in astronomy, and they would be equally valuable for anyone else who takes the time to learn them.
St. Martin’s Press, 2001. A golden guide
This book was my first introduction to astronomy. It was given to me at 8 years old. starsAnd constellationsNot only astronomy, but also nature and physics. Stars, first published in 1951 by the Golden Guides, was one of several pocket guides on science and nature that were updated in recent years.
Herbert S. Zim, a naturalist from Illinois (1909-1994), and Robert H. Baker (1883-1964) authored the book. He was the former head of the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy, and also wrote what is considered to be a classic among college textbooks about astronomy.Introduction to AstronomyVan Nostrand Publishers. Baker was also the author of two excellent books: “When the Stars Come Out“, “Introducing the Constellations“both published by Viking Press.
Supplementing the text of Zim & Baker are 150 exquisite color paintings created by James Gordon Irving (1913 – 2012), whose works were displayed at the American Museum of Natural History, and the National Audubon Society of New York City.
It was a great help for me to identify the brightest constellations and stars at an early age. These 23 maps depict constellations as lines that connect the major naked-eye stars. Each star pattern is represented by pictorial photos.
These charts and diagrams are helpful, but the seasonal star map maps that are used for locating these stars can be a little confusing.
The book is filled with valuable tips and information about the sun, moon and planets. It also explains unusual atmospheric phenomena like rainbows, solar and lunar haloes, and the red sun at sunrise or sunset. northern lights.
The handbook can be used by anyone interested in learning astronomy, even if you are just beginning. This handbook is simple to understand and ideal for both home use as well camping or vacation trips.
Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 2008
For the Golden Guide’s Stars, there was a pictorial image of the object or person that the constellation represented. Hans Augusto Rey (1898-1977), however, developed a new method of identifying constellations by using stick-figure stars patterns. This guidebook was published in 1952. The book was extremely well-received, selling thousands upon thousands of copies and going through many printings. Rey’s patterns have been praised for their simplicity and ability to be seen in the air.
When I was 10 years, I found my first copy of Rey’s book. I was instantly intrigued by many of his brilliant creations such as this. Gemini twinsHands in the air (mostly used to promote the book).
However, there are many mythological stories and legends that go back thousands of years to explain the origins of the constellations. Rey has, however, largely ignored ancient legends to create his book. Instead, he performed radical surgery to virtually every constellation to fit his idea of how a star picture should be.
This makes it difficult to imagine who was more imaginative: the people who invented the constellations so many centuries back, or Rey.
Rey was Ursa Major’s final act. Big Dipper‘s handle — long regarded in mythology as the tail of the Great Bear — into its nose!
The case of Cetus, the whaleHe turned that mammal’s tail towards its face even though Deneb Kaitos was there. Arabic is for the souther tail of Cetus.
Hercules has always been considered a kneeling giant with its brightest star, Rasalgethi marking “the head of the kneeler.” Rey transforms Hercules from a giant kneeling figure to a man with a club and Rasalgethi as his left foot.
For more information, see VirgoSpica is her brightest star and it’s supposed that she marks a wheat spike with her right hand. Rey claims that this is not the case. Spica is the Virgin’s “brightest jewel,” positioned he writes, “on an unusual spot” (her derrière).
Rey couldn’t leave the case when some constellations were close enough to representing what they meant. There are some instances, as in Pegasus, the flying horseAnd Taurus, the bull, his stick-figure renditions were decidedly forced and not really all that obvious, looking more like abstract art — something resembling sketches by Pablo Picasso.
Even with these limitations, I love “The Stars. A New Way To See Them”. It is an accessible work that explains, among others, how not to mistake a satellite for a star. Also, it explains the causes of planetary movements. This is the speed of lightAnd light-yearsThey are presented on an extremely non-technical basis. The book also explains some complex concepts regarding the night sky.
Rey’s complex patterns are a great challenge for those looking to improve their star-finding abilities.
Harper and Row New York 1970
Henry M. Neely, 1877-1963, is a man I mention from time to time. He was a radio engineer who had a successful career, but he took up astronomy very late in his life. As a Hayden Planetarium lecturer, he was one of the most prominent astronomers in America. Although he was too ill to give any lectures to me, Neely still wanted us all to experience the splendor and beauty of our heavens. The 1946 “A Primer For Star-Gazers”, which was updated in 1970, is still a useful and simple resource for studying the constellations and stars.
Unfortunately, the distances of many deep-sky and stellar objects that were revised since the first edition of this book have not been updated. On page 195 you will find the following: Andromeda galaxyIt was listed at 750,000 light years away. Current figures show that it is more than three times farther. The author is not trying to give you facts or figures, but he wants to assist you in finding the stars. Neely envisioned his reader wanting to simply recognize the constellations and principal stars without having to do any real research on astronomy.
This philosophy is followed from cover-to-cover in “A Primer”. The book contains 96 skymaps, all of which were drawn by Neely. All navigational stars are indicated accordingly. There is also a calendar to show you the best maps for particular objects. The book is a complex yet simple starfinder. Refer to Chapter 5, “How to Use This Book”, for more information. Next, head outside. Select the correct map, flip the book, look up at the sky and you will see the requested constellation. Below are the phonetic spellings of constellation and star names. Big and Little Dippers CassiopeiaFor later reference in locating other objects,’s W are the groups that you should first recognize. It provides detailed descriptions on how to identify each constellation as well the notable objects that are contained within.
Neely was known for his ability to transform classical star patterns into geometric shapes. We are thus introduced to “The Kite In Auriga”, “The Long Wedge of Gemini”, “The Great Virgo Triangle”, and Hercules is depicted as another kite, but with a tail.
It is possible that he was the first one to make the turn. SagittariusHe transformed an archer from a teapot into a teapot in Chapter XXIV. On page 187, the star of Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila were incorporated into his creation. a baseball game in the sky.Deneb was at home plate, Epsilon Cygni at second base and Eta at third. Sadr was on the pitcher’s mound. Altair, right fielder watches while Altair, left fielder, runs to catch a flyball in left-centerfield. Children especially love imaginative versions of the constellations.
The one negative I have for the book is Chapter 16 where Neely transforms the constellations Ofromeda Perseus Aries, Aries, and Triangulum to his own creation, The Yacht.
You must know that I’ve never seen it in my many years of skywatching. Neely says that “… it doesn’t require as much imagination to see it as the old traditional stars.
Neely has my respect. I disagree.
The Yacht is like some Rey creations. It has a very abstract star pattern. It’s a great idea!
This book, though, should make it easy for beginning stars- and constellation-finders to identify all of the names and locations in the text. It is also, Henry Neely would love it to be.
Joe Rao is an instructor at New York’s School of Law and a guest lecturer. Hayden Planetarium. He is a writer about astronomy. Natural History magazineIt is the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.