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Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning about Over 125 Celestial Objects Paperback – July 18, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0471418047 ISBN-10: 0471418048 Edition: 1st

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Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning about Over 125 Celestial Objects + Orion 10014 SkyQuest XT4.5 Classic Dobsonian Telescope + NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471418048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471418047
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


* One of the first questions prospective purchasers ask when looking at telescopes is “what can I see with it?” It is certainly a valid question but one that sales staff can only answer in very broad terms with regard to the types of objects and detail visible with a given aperture. Faced with a dark sky and a bewildering number of stars, beginners soon realize that those objects often prove quite elusive and expert guidance at the eyepiece is essential. Star Watch is designed to take the reader by the hand and guide him or her on a memorable journey through the universe.
Encompassing both binocular and small to medium aperture telescope observing, Phil Harrington’s latest book appeals to a wide spectrum of the amateur astronomy community and provides a firm grounding in all aspects of observational astronomy. At some point, most amateur astronomers come to appreciate that one or more facets appeal most and beginners too must discover in which direction their interests lie.
Your journey starts close to home with our nearest neighbour, the Moon. Here, the author splits the lunar month into partial phases with the most prominent features described and accompanied by labeled photographs taken by the author. Virtually all budding astronomers are also interested in the planets. Many years ago, my first views of Saturn and Jupiter knocked me out and whoever was lucky enough to see mars on its closest approach last autumn through a good telescope will not easily forget the brilliant detail visible on the Red Planet. Phil Harrington seems to have pitched the level of information just right for those taking their first views of the planets and also provides useful tips on observing asteroids, comets and the Sun.
The latter two-thirds of Star Watch is devoted to deep sky, a term referring to objects lying outside our solar system. Most of the deep sky objects comprise those within the Messier Catalogue accompanied by a fair sprinkling of some of the most attractive double stars and NGC objects. It is an eclectic mix of clusters, galaxies, nebulae and stars that is sure to please all observers. The list is divided over the four seasons and further sub-divided into Sky Windows, each Sky Window with its own map showing the location of the objects within. I could not find any reference to the limiting star magnitude of the Sky Windows but it seems to be magnitude of the Sky Windows but it seems to be magnitude 7. Serving up the night sky in bite-size chunks is an excellent way keeping the reader focused on a particular area instead of wandering all over the sky. Again, the level of information in the text on where and what to look for is spot on for inexperienced observers and the inclusion of a “WOW!” FACTOR rating indicates how impressive each object is through binoculars, small telescopes and medium telescopes.
I tested some of the summer Sky Windows using my 15 x 50 binoculars and a 90mm telescope and found the objects relatively easily using the principal maps. The all-sky insets are too small to be of any real practical use but do help to correlate the celestial location of a particular Sky Window with the larger seasonal and key maps at the beginning of each chapter.
So, is Star Watch the ideal companion for people starting out in this wonderful hobby, or indeed those with limited observing experience? Yes, it most certainly is! By the time a beginner completes the lunar, planetary and deep sky explorations using this book as a guide, he or she will be an accomplished amateur astronomer ready to delve even deeper into the universe around us and, with a certificate to prove it. Complete the four seasonal lists, record your observations and submit these to the author to obtain your very own numbered and signed Star Watcher certificate!¾Reviewed by Gordon Nason (Astronomy & Space, August 2004)

“…has infectious enthusiasm that makes people want to buy a telescope

From the Back Cover

Your Passport to the Universe

The night sky is alive with many wonders––distant planets, vast star clusters, glowing nebulae, and expansive galaxies, all waiting to be explored. Let respected astronomy writer Philip Harrington introduce you to the universe in Star Watch, a complete beginner’s guide to locating, observing, and understanding these celestial objects. You’ll start by identifying the surface features of the Moon, the banded cloud tops of Jupiter, the stunning rings of Saturn, and other members of our solar system. Then you’ll venture out beyond our solar system, where you’ll learn tips and tricks for finding outstanding deep-sky objects from stars to galaxies, including the entire Messier catalog––a primary goal of every serious beginner.

Star Watch features a detailed physical description of each target, including size, distance, and structure, as well as concise directions for locating the objects, handy finder charts, hints on the best times to view each object, and descriptions of what you’ll really see through a small telescope or binoculars and with the naked eye.

Star Watch will transport you to the farthest depths of space––and return you as a well-traveled, experienced stargazer.

More About the Author

A lifelong amateur astronomer, Phil Harrington was bitten by the "astronomical bug" when he was assigned to watch the total lunar eclipse of April 1968 as a homework assignment. Since then, Phil has spent countless hours touring the universe through telescopes and binoculars. He is a former staff member of New York City's Hayden Planetarium and instructor at the Vanderbilt Planetarium in Centerport, New York.

Phil is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York, where he teaches courses in stellar and planetary astronomy. He is a founding member of the Westport (CT) Astronomical Society and is also one of the coordinators of the annual Astronomer's Conjunction, held every summer in Northfield, MA.

Phil is also a contributing editor for Astronomy magazine, where he frequently reviews telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomical equipment, as well as authors observing features. Phil has also written the magazine's monthly "Binocular Universe" column (from 2005-2009) as well as a quarterly on-line column on entitled "Phil Harrington's Challenge Objects." "Binocular Universe" migrated to in June 2009. In addition, he has written for Deep Sky and Sky & Telescope magazines.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend this book for any new stargazers.
Edward R Haddock Jr
The author shows you how to "star-hop" from a bright star to an obscure deep sky object, which makes finding it so much easier.
S. Porretta
Star Watch by Philip Harrington and binoculars has been my first step into astronomy and it has been a great one.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Patrick French on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am a serial hobbyist. I pick up a new hobby about once every year (and keep most of my old ones) and this year it's astronomy. With any new hobbies I check out maybe a dozen books from the library to read about the subject straight from the firehose. By then I know what books I'd like to keep.
"Sky Watch" is as important to me as my telescope! My telescope does not have the computerized automatic finder so I have to search for galaxies I'd like to see. This book has all my favorites listed and it's well drawn diagrams get me there in a hurry. The book is very similar to "Turn Left at Orion", which appears to be the most popular in the category (and deservedly so.) "Turn Left's" diagrams assume more familiarity with the constellations so you can stumble a little bit, but it's "naked eye/telescope" views help you zero in on smaller object if the telescope's optical rotation of the view confuses you. I believe "Sky Watch's" diagrams are easier to read and navigate, and will get you to the region-of-interest quicker. Buy "Sky Watch" first, use a low-power eyepiece when seeking, and put in a high power eyepiece when you've found it. Use "Turn Left" when you need to hop from star to star using a high-power eyepiece.
Using this book as your guide, you will quickly develop an "astronomer's head" for finding your favorite celestial objects, and the ability to make good use out of any optics, whether it be binoculars, a basic telescope, or some money-is-no-object major league light-bucket.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Rodger Raubach VINE VOICE on December 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have had a lifelong interest in astronomy;in fact it was ranked very high as a possible career choice when I was (a LOT) younger. After reading this book , it left me wishing that it had been available sooner. It stands alone in a field filled with "guidebooks" , for it assists both the rank beginner and the old duffers in finding some of the most beautiful and interesting objects in the heavens.
Let me state that this is not a children's book. It is not overly technical , but assumes that the individual using it is somewhat equipped for the hobby (obsession?) with at least a pair of binoculars , and probably is able to buy or obtain access to a small "backyard" telescope. For a properly equipped individual, this is a real "guided tour" that certainly stimulates the appetite for "more".
The book is divided into sections that the author describes as "near space" and "deep space". Near space consisting of the Moon and other Solar System objects ; planets , the Sun , comets , etc. , and deep space being all extra-solar system objects , such as double stars , nebulae , star clusters , and galaxies.
For me , the book was a great re-motivator. I found that I had never really "lost interest" -my interest was simply dormant , and for my part I must give Phil Harrington alot of credit. This is a soft cover book , so it accompanies me outside ; I make notes in the margins and have come to regard it as a friend come over to help me find new objects , an re-find things I could find many years ago and had forgotten.
I rated the book on the following points: content (information)-5 stars; readability-5 stars ; clarity of instructions-5 stars. It isn't a glitzy "coffee table" book ; it was meant to be used. So--5 stars all the way!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By W. Mcmurry on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
A well done book (soft cover) with Seasonal Finding Charts, Complete Famed Messier Catalog (110 of the Clusters, Nebula, and Galaxies thru most backyard telescopes)and brighter NGC'S. Even Maps of the Moon's features plenty for the casual observor as myself, Bonus Info on Double Stars, Planets as well !! Beautifully done. Wish I had this book years ago, even if you have the latest goto telescopes is a fantastic aid as lists what to expect to see with binoculars, 3 to 5 inch telescopes, and larger. Does not photograph every item but still enough to wet the appetite. Also a Great Value Book !! Just under 300 pages of pure enjoyment !!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Darren Wong on January 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one very well thought out book...but then again it is written by Phil Harrington, an authority on all things astronomy. The book covers everything from observing the moon and planets to deep sky objects. Seeing that it was a spin off from Phil's observing section in Starware, it has all his "at the eyepiece" sketches. What I found particularly helpful were the detailed star maps. Right up there with Turn Left at Orion. Highly recommended for the beginner!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert T. Lovell on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
An excellent beginner's book or a back-to-basics guide for expeienced observers, Harrington meticulously lays-out the celestial sphere and ways to find and enjoy it's wonders.

This patient step by step approach not only teaches the fundamentals and skills of stargazing, but calibrates our expectation realistically regrarding what we can expect to see depending on the instrument we use and the local conditions.

Harrington selects for us 125 fascinating objects to observe

using them to develop techniques for finding and viewing.

I would recommend this work as a great primer for neophyte amateur astronomers.
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