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4.8 out of 5 stars63
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on July 8, 2009
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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on July 14, 2014
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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on March 14, 2010
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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on August 14, 2012
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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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. This book shows how to locate and recognize the planets, the different features and phases of the Moon, aspects of the Sun (don't pull a Galileo by looking directly at the Sun!), and many objects in deeper space, from double- and multiple-star systems (many commonly known stars, like Sirius and Polaris, resolve easily into multiple stars with relatively low-powered magnification) to nebulae and galaxies. For example, the Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the naked eye, and holds several distinctions - it is the most distant object we can see with the naked eye, it is only galaxy outside our own we can see with the naked eye in the northern hemisphere, and we only actually see a portion of it (if we could see the whole thing, it would take up more than half a dozen widths of the Moon across the sky - quite large!).

The book is arranged in a highly readable two-page format for almost every topic, and each topic is sliced thin enough that one can get something useful and yet be left wanting to go to the next topic. Little pop-out boxes of text give insights into history, professional practices, alternate theories, and more. The utility of the book lies in showing what's what, but also in making recommendations for what to purchase (if so inclined), where to view, and what to actually look for in the sky. Those expecting Hubble Telescope-like images in their 3-inch refractor are in for a disappointment, but the real disappointment would be giving in to that kind of false expectation and missing what is really out there.

National Geographic has always been a leader in bringing the natural world accessibly into everyday hands - this book lives up to that tradition admirably.
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on July 1, 2011
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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on January 2, 2015
My daughter (11 years old) and I love this book! There are lots of pictures along with explanations of basic astronomical science. The only complaint I have is I keep catching my daughter reading it when she should be sleeping!
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on January 4, 2015
Hardbound edition we received seems to have the strength and endurance level to be a "lifetime" volume to hand down to the generations of stargazers. Given as a gift to our kids and grandson, we look forward to hearing about their adventures outdoors, admiring "the heavens declar(ing) the glory of God!!" Two year old regularly points out to Grandma where the moon's location is...he has an early interest! Did find that the book was more "heady" and info-filled than we'd expected. It may work in his favor, since he is brilliant ; ) as only a 2 year old grandson can be!!! We ALL LOVE the STAR MAPS!!
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on January 4, 2012
My son-in-law has been tacking the constellations to the children and this book has been a great contribution to everyone's knowledge.
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on May 23, 2015
A great beginners guide. The author provides a one page summary of every constellation in the sky. I enjoy using a variety of methods (including sometimes this book) to locate a constellation then relying upon this book to read interesting facts about it.
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