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2011 Astronomical Calendar Paperback – November 10, 2010
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Whether it's the path of the Moon's shadow across the Earth, the conjunctions of Mercury and Venus or the configurations of Jupiter's Galilean moons that interest you, the 2011 Astronomical Calendar has what you need to make the most of your stargazing opportunities. Now in its 38th year, this essential resource guides you to a staggering array of astronomical events throughout the year.
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This book is produced in large format, 11 x 15 inches in size. That makes for great, large graphic images. It also provides a lot of space on each page for text necessary for describing the graphics (and what it in the sky) without needing to flip through pages of material - it is all right there. I must confess that in 1981, my then teen-aged eyes had less problem with the small print in the dark than my now middle-aged eyes have; that is really the only disadvantage that I see (no pun intended) to the text.
In the introduction, Ottewell describes this text as a good first course in astronomy. "By using this Calendar intermittently through the year, you will have harnessed the seasons to give yourself a rather effortless and comprehensive course in astronomy." This is not a book with equations and scientific formulae, but rather a practical guide to seeing what is in the sky. It supplements this main purpose with the occasional geometry and scientific explanations of the events (eclipses, etc.) and some basic data about the astronomical objects (planets, asteroids, comets, etc.). However, no degree is required to be able to use this text - indeed, even middle and high-school students should be able to find this text useful.
There are sky maps for each month - each month is laid out in a two-page spread with one page dominated by the sky map (and a smaller solar system plan above, to help put things in context). The second page often has a major inset graphic showing major `horizon' events - what to see before the Sun comes up or after the Sun sets, often key times for viewing. For example, as I write this in January 2011, Venus and Mercury are both very prominent in the morning sky, both reaching their greatest morning elongations (the farthest they get from the Sun) and thus in the best possible viewing positions; one of the horizon inset graphics shows this to aid in seeing them (Venus one can never miss, but Mercury is more elusive).
After each of the months of the year has been shown, there are special sections that show eclipses (there will be six in 2011), several pages describing lunar events, pages on each of the planets, asteroids, comets, occultations, conjunctions, meteors, deep sky objects, and even a page that was not possible back in my first copy in 1981, a page on exoplanets! There are also useful supplements on the history of space flight and an extended piece on light pollution, a growing problem around the globe.
I teach the occasional course in introductory astronomy at my local community college, which has become one of the most popular courses there. This book is one that I recommend to all of my students for their own nightly viewing, and I look forward each year to the next edition.