5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Star Watch (Philip Harrington): A Beginners Review for Beginners
, January 29, 2009
Preface and Introduction
If like me you've come across this title as a beginner in astronomy than you probably are interested in getting some equipment and some literature to help you learn more about the night sky. I would even bet you like me got started by simply being amazed at what the starry looks like at night when it's truly dark. No telescope, no binoculars or anything just the awe and amazement.
I really wanted to take a moment and make this post for those who are just like me and just getting started, those who are lost on what equipment to purchase or which books to consider. These two choices alone can be very overwhelming.
No review is any good without some knowledge of the reviewer. My name is Tim and I'm 28 years old. My knowledge of astronomy is very limited where as I can name a few of the more prominent constellations and understand the basics of the Moon. That's really about it. I have always been fascinated with space and enjoy television shows about space. So take this into account when you read my mini-review here. This truly is a beginner speaking and I hope to offer insights that other beginners will find helpful and useful.
About the Book
Star Watch by Philip S. Harrington is a paperback book of 304 pages and measures 9.25-inches by 7.50-inches. Its a nice size book and fits easily in the lap and the hands. The binding seems to be of good quality and the pages are a nice medium weight. The book contains many black-and-white photographs (more on this below) as well as star charts for each season and other various diagrams. It is by design a guide to "Finding, Observing and Learning about Over 125 Celestial Objects" as the title accurately describes.
I'm going to offer my thoughts on this book in these specific categories: Purpose, Content, Readability, Photographs and Visual Aids, Layout and Overall Thoughts.
Purpose: Does this book meet its objective for the reader?
What I want to discuss here is does this book make good on what it claims to do (help you find and learn about things in space). In my opinion yes it does. Other than knowing a few constellations I don't know much about the sky that I can see. This book helps immensely with that. Star Watch helps you find the objects by naming the constellation to start in and then general "directions" to get to the object. As if someone game you their address, they would give you the house number, street name, city name, then state and so forth. This book does this process in reverse to get you zeroed in on the objective. You will be guided to a constellation, then directed within that constellation to the area of that you are looking for. This book sets out to get you to the objects and does this in a simple to use fashion. I've had good success finding things.
Content: What's covered?
Star Watch covers many objects over 125 and more than that it covers a nice diversity of different types of objects. You will not be just looking at planets, or just the moon. But rather a mix of different space objects. This alone really helps to teach about how diverse space really is. More than little light specs space holds many different and unique things to see and explore and Star Watch will help get you there.
Readability: How is reading the book?
I would like to say that this book is made to be a guide rather than a fun space facts reading book but please don't let this detract from this book at all. In fact I find this book a good balance between a strict guide and fun fact trivia book. If you want a colorful flashy book for the coffee table that showcases the magic about space (but can't take you there) than this book is not for you. However if you wonder what is up there, want to learn about it then actually see it yourself than this book is exactly what you want. Star Watch does a good job of teaching you about what it will help you find and see.
The layout of this book is also a welcome tool for learning. The first few chapters the reader can basically read through in order. They cover the basics and help set the foundation for your viewing sessions. The later parts of the book are set up by seasons, which makes it a valuable tool and more of a reference style reading material. Very helpful here is where you will skip to your particular season and start looking for things.
Each season is divided into Sky Windows and they again go into more detail of the skies. The layout really does work well. Skip to which season you are currently in and then start from there. Star Watch does a good job of telling what you will see and when.
On the other side of that coin Star Watch also contains a catalog of the Messier Objects (object first observed and cataloged by Charles Messier) and a catalog of the planets and constellations. These are strictly reference materials and very helpful.
Photographs and Visual Aids
I really appreciate that Star Watch has used black-and-white photographs. Why? Simple because the view I see through my binoculars is also black-and-white! This really helps me to get an idea of what I should see through my viewing equipment. The star charts are black dots on white background (think a negative of the night sky) but still they are quite readable and useful. Not every object is pictured but every object is given ample descriptive remarks. There are more than enough photographs in this book to help get you going.
Also found in Star Watch are a wide variety of star charts and constellation diagrams. These too work very well and with the photographs help dial the viewer on the destination. I also like the included tables that offer even more information on objects and other neat facts.
This book is much more than text but not a strict visual book either. I am quite pleased with this aspect.
Like I said above the first few chapters are read in order and serve to ground you on the start of your journey. Other parts of the book offer strict diagrams and other offer season guides to be used with what ever season you are currently in. The layout is quite good and easy to navigate.
What I really like is that each object has its own section and has its own rating on how easy it is to find with both binoculars and telescopes as well as the "wow factor" for how impressive it will look.
This guide is a great balance between guide and fun reading.
This is my very first astronomy book and I must say it's a great introduction to this hobby. Currently I'm strictly a binocular user so I wanted a book that wasn't mostly about telescopes. Admit it when you think astronomy you think telescopes, so do a lot of authors. But Star Watch is great because it breaks things down for the binocular user, the small telescope user and the large telescope user and lays out what each one of those will see. If anything this book makes it more tempting to get a telescope too, but I would recommend binoculars first.
This book is a great companion of my binoculars. Binoculars are by their design more suited for sweeping the sky in search of objects. That alone makes binoculars the best choice for the beginners who like me are learning the sky. While you may get more magnification with a telescope, binoculars will help you learn the sky faster and easier because you can sweep the heavens far easier.
Also binoculars offer a wide field of view that make them great for the star clusters and Nebula that Star Watch will point you to. I highly recommend this book and a decent pair of binoculars. Later when you get a telescope this book will move right along with you (not every single object is viewable with binoculars).
Star Watch by Philip Harrington and binoculars has been my first step into astronomy and it has been a great one. I highly recommend this book to compliment you binoculars especially, but this book is also just as valuable to you folks with your first telescope. Either way Star Watch will get you out there and guide you to amazing things. Great for the beginner and a title that I'm sure will grow with you as your skills improve. Highly recommended!