Most helpful positive review
182 of 185 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyed it very much
on February 19, 2007
I received one of the first copies hot off the press and took it and a good pair of binoculars with me on a recent vacation with dark skies.
The book is compact (6 ½ x 9 inches), spiral bound, and the cover folds back flat for easy handling in the dark. Print quality is excellent, text is easy to read in the dark (with a red flashlight!) and illustrations are sharp and uncluttered. The pages are coated to prevent damage from dew and the book seems very durable for field work. Overall the quality and design is excellent.
There is an introduction followed by a concise illustrated chapter on choosing binoculars for astronomical viewing, which explains important topics such as understanding magnification and the size of the objective lenses for a pair of binoculars, field of view in the night sky, making binocular choices, other binocular features to look for, tests for sharpness and optical alignment, and special types like image-stabilized and big binoculars. This is a nice section for those who know little about binoculars to help guide them into making good choices and avoiding problems.
The main portion of the book is essentially a compilation of many of Mr. Seronik's excellent Binocular Highlights columns from Sky & Telescope magazine. There are 99 Highlights, presented 1 on each page, all visible from North America. They are roughly divided up into four sections based on which time of year the object is best seen - December to February, March to May, June to August, and September to November. Each page is divided in half - on the top half there is a close up section of a star chart which shows the highlight. A circular binocular "field of view" with a black background on the chart shows what to expect when you are viewing. The bottom half of each page contains the text description of the object and other points of interest. These are well written, clear and enjoyable. To get you oriented to the right part of the sky there are fold-out star maps inside the front and back covers which show the entire sky, one for each season, with all the highlights for that section marked with a numbered red circle.
It's easy to find your way around. Pick the right star chart (February in my case) fact south and the sky roughly matches the chart. Then refer to the detailed chart on the highlight page for final directions. Since binoculars show you a right side up, correctly oriented image, there's little confusion. Some of the highlights were very, very easy to see and are great confidence builders, like the Pleiades , the Hyades, the Beehive cluster, Orion's Sword, and the bright star Betelgeuse in Orion. Several required a little attention to the star chart but were easily visible (open clusters M41 in Canis Major, the Double Cluster of NGC 884 and 869 in Perseus, and the clusters M46 and M47 in Puppis). Others were more challenging, like Kemble's Cascade in Camelopardalis, and the red carbon star U Hydrae, but I found every one I looked for with a little perseverance. In the end I enjoyed wandering through over half the objects in the book - the ones that were visible at the times I was observing. Some will be easily visible even in light polluted city skies; others will obviously require better visibility in a dark sky with no moon.
Final thoughts: if you have a pair of binoculars and can see the sky at night you should try this book - it gives a nice, well presented list of some of the most interesting things to see.