Customer Reviews: NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
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on November 23, 2006
This is book is so good, you'll regret reading it. Let me tell you why. This is the book that got me started on astronomy. Two telescopes, sleepless nights spent under the stars, and 4 years later; I am $5000 poorer but much more enriched...all because I read this book. Perfect for any beginner, but even this "old head" had to buy the new edition (this is the 4th) since my old one is being passed on to my Dad's house (with our old 6 inch Discovery telescopes reflector) in South Dakota. Great beginner star charts..when I am not chasing the faint fuzzies, I use these charts as a default. of the best Astronomy books out there!
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on March 17, 2009
Overall an excellent book. It has a great overview of astronomy, and some good guides in what to look for in a telescope and what to look at in a telescope once you have it. Then there are whole sky star maps, and maps broken down to smaller areas. It's got plenty of targets for binoculars and small scopes. So if you're just getting started and have binoculars, but no scope yet, this is a great book. Let me emphasize (as the book does) that a department store telescope is likely worse than a $20 binocular, because it will lead to more frustration than it is worth.

I do wish that the charts maybe had finder views of a few objects as well, perhaps in the bottom margin. A second important thing would be to warn users about what they CAN'T see from an urban or suburban location. You might think that magnitude 7-8 objects would be just visible, but many aren't. Many things that are easy from a dark sky site are very hard or impossible from a city. It doesn't emphasize this enough for beginners who don't have the experience to know this.
Other things to buy might be a plansiphere. Also a more detailed atlas like the Bright Star Atlas, The Cambridge Star Atlas, or for even more detail, the Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas. Keep in mind that the more detail you see, the more confusing it can be. And that's another strong point of this book. The charts in here are very easy to understand and non-threatening, perfect for beginners. And lastly, if you do get a telescope, Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them is a great book too. It has very detailed directions for finding everything in there. So if you can't find some of the objects in here, Turn left at Orion will probably help.

I also want to mention that the spiral binding works great for the star maps to keep the book easily open and flat.
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on December 29, 2007
The overwhelming number of reviews for this book on Amazon is a testimonial to its stature as a classic introductory stargazing book. The fact that the reviews are uniformly positive testifies to its exceptional quality. Now in its fourth edition, Nightwatch has been introducing amateur astronomers to the night sky for over two decades. Terence Dickinson is a prolific astronomy author and this is one of his most important and enduring works.
This is essentially the same as the older editions, some of which I also own. Four new things have been added to the new edition. Tables and data have been update through 2018, there are now southern hemisphere charts (for a Northern hemisphere book, who cares?), there is an updated section on digital astrophotography and some updated information on buying a telescope. I have read many introductory stargazing books and I always find the information about buying a telescope the least interesting. More often than not, the telescope is purchased first and the book is purchased later. An extended section on purchasing a telescope after the fact, after the proverbial horse has left the barn, seems wasteful. Dickerson's section is interesting however. I have not read all his works, but I have read several and Dickerson has uniformly dismissed "go-to" telescopes in favor of "learning the sky." This may be worthwhile for the serious amateur astronomer, but the serious amateur already knows the sky. The true novice may be aided by a telescope that aids him in finding celestial objects so that his cold and dark nights don't end prematurely in frustration. The frustrated novice may never become the "serious" amateur astronomer who benefits from knowing the sky.
To my knowledge, this is the first book in which Dickerson embraces GPS-guided "go-to" telescopes which require no knowledge of the sky. In an age of light pollution when the opportunity to view the sky are diminishing for most of us urban dwellers, Dickerson acknowledges the utility of GPS telescopes which have become self-guiding and essentially "idiot-proof." If you can get it into the darkness and onto a tripod, it can find for you a celestial object. This is truly an amazing advance in amateur astronomy and Dickerson finally acknowledges and embraces this development.
As a book, this is a thorough introductory text on stargazing. It is concise and the prose is well-written. Anyone wanting to pursue astronomy as a serious hobby will undoubtedly want more, but this is an excellent starting point. And for nearly a quarter century, this is where many budding amateur astronomers have started. This text is recommended without reservations. If you want to learn the sky, start here.
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2008
If you are a beginner, buy this book immediately. It is probably fabulous for the rest of you, too. :) I am just getting started myself and have spent just a short time with it. I look forward to learning and appreciating it even more. Beginners absolutely need it. Try to read before you get a telescope, but even if you have made a purchase, will be able to help you make best use of it and help you avoid frustration.

This book is first of all beautiful with many color photographs to enhance the comprehensive text. The content is engaging and easy-to-understand.

Buy, enjoy, and have fun. Also, the book is worth the $35.00 price, but Amazon has a great discount.
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on March 9, 2008
I bought this book some years ago, to see if I wanted to try amateur astronomy again. I had been given a department store telescope as a kid, and was discouraged by the fact that you really couldn't observe anything other than the moon with it. This book gave me the confidence to go out and buy a reasonably expensive telescope, and get it up and running with almost no assistance from anyone else. It opened up a wonderful hobby.

I strongly recommend giving this book to anyone with an interest in amateur astronomy. It is the best guide to getting started in something I've ever seen in my life.
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on February 28, 2007
Growing up on the prairies, far from any city lights, I took the splendour of our star-filled night sky for granted.

These past thirty years I've been living in the bloom of a large always-bright-at-night city skyscape. Light pollution in the suburbs means that only the nearest planets and the brightest stars are visible from our backyard. Whenever I get the opportunity to leave the city's light behind it's always a pleasant surprise to once again experience the brilliance of an unpolluted night sky.

What with all there is to see amidst such a profusion of celestial objects, it's a good idea to bring along a guide to get acquainted with all that glitters overhead. The best guide I've found so far is Terence Dickinson's "NightWatch".

Terrance has devoted his life to the study of the night sky. He has authored fourteen books on astronomy and is the editor of SkyNews, a Canadian astronomy magazine. In the 1960s and 70s he was an astronomer at two major planetariums; and since 1976, has been a full-time astronomy writer and editor.

Terrance's fascination and sense of wonderment with all things celestial is infectious. Thumbing through any NightWatch chapter makes you want to linger longer with this book. It is a real incentive to setting up a lawn chair in the backyard to spend some time staring up at the night sky.

The fourth edition of this practical guide to viewing the universe was published in late 2006. Casual night sky observers, amateur astronomers and professionals alike will marvel at the wealth of information, incredible pictures, ingeniously easy-to-use sky charts and eloquent prose found within its 192 ring-bound pages. Besides being well-engineered for outdoor use in dim light, it is simply gorgeous and would do well on display in your favourite conversational room.

I really like the fact that even if your eyes are the only equipment you own for stargazing, this guide will provide many hours of enjoyment as it takes you on a tour of the local planets and spectacle of the spring, summer, autumn and winter night sky. You won't have to travel further than to your own backyard to appreciate how informative this book can be. For those with binoculars, or telescopes and a car (to get beyond the city lights), NightWatch contains a wealth of star charts to help you probe the depths of our galaxy and those far beyond. You'll find easily navigable directions to double stars, variable stars, star clusters, globular clusters, nebula, and the galaxies.

This guide is of particular value for those considering the purchase of stargazing equipment, and who hasn't had the craving to own their own telescope. Too often though the first time buyer falls victim to purchasing a high-power department store "trash-scope" and later regrets having parted with their money. Terrence devotes an entire chapter to acquainting us with the many varieties of binoculars and telescopes. In a very understandable manner he guides us through the many factors to consider when selecting our first set of equipment.

If photography is your thing, you'll love the chapter on photographing the night sky. Cameras do a superb job of gathering and recording starlight. This fourth edition has been thoroughly updated to keep pace with the current digital revolution.

Even if you never set foot outdoors to gaze up at the night sky, this book is a wonderful educational tool for becoming more aware of galaxy we live in and our place in the universe. Spend a few hours with NightWatch and you'll find yourself always coming back for more.
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on January 9, 2010
The reviews say it all on this book. It gives you a great analysis of amateur stargazing and telescoping. I found the best thing was the back charts. He includes 20 charts of the constellations and what an amateur stargazer can expect to see within each constellation (what galaxy's, nebulas, binary stars, etc). It was awesomely educational. His comment on the Andromeda galaxy was spot on. I was so disappointed in what I saw the first time I looked at this galaxy cause all it was was a white blob. I was almost turned off right there, saying to myself, ARE YOU serious this is what Im going to see thru my scope, what a disappointment. But this guy really explains the best things to see in the sky and he harners your expectations by saying you will not see anything like you see in magazines because those pictures are photographed and layered for hours. Realizing that I got right back into it and read how there are ton of other things that are much better to look at and the reason the Andromeda galaxy is so blurry is the fact that its 2.5M Light Years away! Its actually the farthest object in the sky one can see with the naked eye (of course in optimal conditions).

Realizing all that I moved on and was much more impressed of other objects he suggested...PLanets are the best in my view, Orion Nebula is awesome too, and binary stars are very cool. Understanding this, my love of stargazing is just beginning and the more I know the more I am completely in awe.

His best advice, and he is SPOT on, is buy binoculars first. Learn and educate yourself of the sky before trying to blindly point your scope in the sky. The rewards will be great. Knowing your way around and educating yourself of the immense beauty of this universe is the biggest reward you will receive. BUY THIS BOOK!
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on February 3, 2012
Purchase and read this book for a great start in the hobby of astronomy. Mr. Dickinson has produced and refined a (fourth-edition) book that is both informative and enjoyable. Like everyone else, I was anxious to purchase optical aids to help my understanding and enjoyment of the night sky. I found the sections on optical aids (binoculars and telescopes) to be especially helpful in this regard. I recommend reading this book prior to any binocular or telescope will probably save you money. The book contains deep-sky charts with diagrams of all the major constellations suitable for outdoor use. Diagrams are presented to help one navigate the sky from star to star and locate objects of interest. I would definitely recommend this book (and a flashlight with a red lens) to a friend interested in getting a good start in this hobby at very small cost. The book also contains a shopping list of publications to be added in future as interest builds.
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on August 5, 2014
I won't add anything about the book itself to the already great reviews written by others here, my reason for posting this review is to say that the way that the book is now bound takes away all the advantages of the book being spiral bound. The cover on the edition that I received is a hard cover with a hard spine on the book that will not permit you folding the book over onto itself without damaging the hardcover and its spine.

It's ironic because in the book, the author writes a line, which i'll paraphrase here, that you can take this book out into the field and use the star maps by folding the book open and holding it up so that you can search for constellations and stars, but now, with this current edition's binding, you can't do this. I am thinking of cutting the spine down the middle so that i can fold the book over, because the charts and starmaps really would be useful. The other solution is just to leave the book undamaged and buy a separate star finder, and leave this book at home when out stargazing.
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on August 14, 2011
I can't recommend Night Watch enough for a beginner. Dickinson's information is essential in beginning to understand how to observe the sky (day or night), how to select and purchase astronomical gear, and it comes with many sky charts to get you started with observation and with astrophotography. It is a delight to read and packed with useful and interesting information that is easy to understand even for those with little or no previous knowledge of astronomy. And the photographs are many and marvelous!

The "but..." in my title refers to that fact that, as a few reviewers have noted, Night Watch is very much a BOOK in addition to a guide. This means that the charts and the tips on how to actually use them are surrounded by lots of TEXT. I love the text and think it is helpful and interesting, but it is important to read Night Watch BEFORE heading out to your backyard to stargaze. Otherwise you might be jaded like a reviewer or two I have seen who wait to crack open the book until their are outside itching to locate the Whirlpool Galaxy. If you already have some knowledge of stargazing and are looking for a quick grab-and-go handbook with long, detailed lists of objects to locate, you aren't looking for Night Watch.

In conclusion, BEGINNERS - purchase with confidence! Dickinson can help anyone start stargazing, understand the mysteries of the objects in our skies, and purchase their first pair of binoculars or telescope. Night Watch may be the only observing guide you'll need. For the truly hard-core and those who own/will buy a telescope, I recommend also investing in a subscription to Astronomy magazine or Sky & Telescope. Don't forget your red flashlight - red to preserve your night vision. Dickinson mentions wrapping a flashlight in "red plastic," but he should add my very favorite old tip - buy a roll of red tail light tape and stick it on one of the old flashlights you've got lying around. Very cheap and effective!

NON-BEGINNERS, if you're just looking for a long list of objects to find and how to find them, look elsewhere.
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