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National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky Paperback – July 7, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Howard Schneider is a veteran reporter who contributes regularly on science and health for the Washington Post.

Patricia Daniels has written extensively on history and science, including National Geographic Encyclopedia of Space.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; Original edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426202814
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426202810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This beautiful little book has become my steady stargazing companion. Not only is it an excellent, comprehensive guide to the night sky, it also makes for good reading when you're stuck inside. It's helpful, educational, and entertaining. It's also well organized, filled with current information and the latest science, and contains impressive pictures and charts.

This book is not a "coffee-table" book as one might sometimes expect with National Geographic, but rather it's published in a convenient field guide size that fits easily into a pack or in your hands, so you can actually use it outside.

One of the most impressive and helpful aspects of this guide is its information on the constellations and how to find deep-space objects within them, like galaxies and clusters. Each constellation is given its own succinct and trenchant treatment, with a heading, map, best times for viewing, associated mythology, and, of course, the location of deep space objects that can be found nearby.

There are only four sky charts given, however (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter), so one may need more specific times for viewing on certain days and hours that can be found in more detailed charts or almanacs. But that's a minor quibble. Indeed, scientists, laymen, kids, and beginners alike, everyone will find this guidebook a useful and joyful addition to their collection.
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3.5 stars. This isn't a bad book per se, but there are much better options out there; I read through most of this book before finding NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson. The Backyard Guide has some decent general information and is certainly compact, but NightWatch (now in its fourth edition, if that gives you an idea of its refinement and enduring legacy) has the edge on field usability because of its spiral binding. The Backyard Guide mentions, here and there, targets that are suitable for binocular or small telescope observation, but it really seems to be more of a general compendium of information on the basics of the night sky than a particularly helpful 'how-to' guide for someone to wants to learn the constellations and so forth. In this respect, its sections on the various constellations are pretty good. However, NightWatch does a much better job of stepping the beginning stargazer through the steps of finding common constellations and asterisms; for example, Backyard Guide mentions that your hand covers about 5 degrees of the sky, your thumb 1 degree and so forth, but NightWatch has much better illustrations of this and explanations for its use.

Overall, as someone fairly new to amateur astronomy who has read and used both, I would suggest skipping this book and getting NightWatch instead.
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The title says it all. Backyard Guide is exactly what I needed to help me review and prepare my scripts for operating a planetarium in NE Georgia. It's loaded with quick facts about anything I would be showing in our digital planetarium and most helpful in viewing all the major objects in the night sky.
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Format: Paperback
I teach the occasional astronomy class at my local community college, in addition to being an avid amateur astronomer -- I suppose that being paid to teach astronomy could afford me the honor of being called a professional astronomer, but knowing what I don't know in the field, I shall resist any such temptation. Besides, astronomy is perhaps the last great scientific area where to be an amateur is still a role respected by the field at large, for many discoveries (from comets and asteroids to recent supernovae images by the under-16 set) come from those whose technical knowledge may not be at the differential equation level, but whose love of the heavens keeps them ever interested.

My goal as a teacher is to try to bring some of that love together with more systematic knowledge, and part of that is getting people to look up in the sky, and to understand what it is they are seeing when they do. To that end, this `Backyard Guide to the Night Sky' is an excellent resource. A question that I ask my students is this - what is the number one instrument for astronomy. Answer: your eyes. Binoculars, telescopes, and all other things come in later, but simply looking up and learning does wonders. This book opens up the sky to those who don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to spend on fancy equipment. On the other hand, this book is certainly useful for those who have such equipment - I have found in my experience that telescopes are often like home fitness equipment: there is much excitement and good intention when purchased, but within a very short time, the expensive things are gathering dust in a corner, or relegated to a closet, `for when we have time.'

One needn't plan extensive star parties or buy expensive equipment to enjoy the sky.
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2 Comments 26 of 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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A good book for beginners. There is not much detail in most instances, but for someone peering out of their backyard it seems like a useful guide. I bought it as a guide to the constellations and some of the brighter stars and it works well for that purpose.
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this book has helped a normal city girl want to learn more about the great outdoor's and the sky's above thank you.the person who recieved this book want's to learn more about the sky's above and isn't affraid to go outdoors at night now.
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