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A Great Way to Learn the Nighttime Sky
on July 10, 2001
For the beginning amateur astronomer there is no better aid to learning the stars and constellations than a planisphere - and I think David Levy's new rendition of this old device is as good as they come.
Basically a planisphere is starmap printed on one of two plastic disks which are joined together in the center and free to rotate. Around the edge of one disk are the days of the year while the other disk has the hours of the day. By setting the time, on one disk, opposite the date on the other, it is possible for you to see the sky, through a window in the top disk, as it would appear at that particular day and time.
There are several thing about David Levy's planisphere that recommend it. To begin with it is BIG, 16 inches in diameter to be precise, and the printing is large and easy to read. Secondly, it is a good representation of the sky showing only those stars visible to the unaided eye. Finally, the reverse side contains information about the Moon, planets, meteor showers and a listing of interesting galaxies and star clusters visible in binoculars or a small telescope. If you are a beginning "Stargazer", or thinking about becoming one, this should be your first acquisition.