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The Backyard Astronomer's Guide Hardcover – September 12, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


[Review of earlier edition:] I highly recommend this volume for most amateur astronomers and all libraries. I wish I had read it before I purchased my first telescope. (John O. Christensen Science Books and Films 2003-10-15)

[Review of earlier edition:] More than any other guide to backyard observing, this excellent book focuses on equipment. (Astronomy)

[Review of earlier edition:] Excellent introductory text ... completely revised... it is lushly illustrated in color throughout. (Ursula Ellis E-Streams, Vol. 6, No. 4)

[Review of earlier edition:] If an amateur astronomer could afford one book, this would be the one to get ... one of the most attractive practical astronomy works ever produced. (Russ Francis Monday Magazine)

[Review of earlier edition:] Lively, accessible style; is comprehensive; and is lavishly illustrated with hundreds of photographs, diagrams, and charts... highly recommended for any library. (Mark Wilson American Reference Books Annual, Volume 35)

[Review of earlier edition:] Few books capture the spirit of the hobby so well -- the pleasures and the pitfalls of the equipment you might need, and the simple joy of watching the universe go by. (American Scientist)

[Review of earlier edition:] This all-encompassing reference provides practical advice. (Science News 2003-01-04)

[Review of earlier edition:] Recommended for all libraries and for experienced or inexperienced amateur astronomers. (A.R. Upgren Choice)

[Review of earlier edition:] Big colorful user-friendly book ... I recommend this book for anyone who is contemplating buying a telescope, has one but does not quite know how to use it, or wants to learn more about accessories and fun activities to supplement his or her stargazing. If you teach observational astronomy, run a public observatory, or conduct community stargazing classes, put this magazine down and order it right now ... This book is your passport to the stars. (David Aguilar Sky and Telescope)

[Review of earlier edition:] This book is an indispensable tool for any serious naturalist who wants to understand and experience the full expanse of the world and universe around us. (Pierre R. Gauthier Canadian Camera)

[Review of earlier edition:] Its nontechnical language makes astronomy an avocation accessible to everyone. (Library Journal 2003-05-01)

[Review of earlier edition:] Crammed with practical information that should help you become a better observer, and have fun doing it. (Craig Tupper Astronomy)

[Review of earlier edition:] Besides its practical benefits, this book is a real treat for the eyes. It's loaded with colorful photographs, graphics and information boxes. (John McPhee Halifax Chronicle-Herald 2003-02-01)

A magnificently illustrated and superb guide to astronomy is contained in the newest edition of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide.... Overall, this title is a beautiful and informative resource for the amateur astronomer, both the beginner and the experienced. (Denise A. Garofalo American Reference Book Annual)

I fondly remember haunting my favorite bookstore as a college student in the early 1990s, ogling the big, full-color astronomy texts, when I happened upon The Backyard Astronomer's Guide. It wasn't as flashy as the other books, but I was quickly taken by its practical information, covering all the subjects I was interested in as a fledgling amateur. Now in its third edition, Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer have completely rewritten large sections to keep in lockstep with the evolving trends. Like an old friend who has grown wiser over time, this compendium has become better with age. It's good-looking too--though chock-full of useful information, none of the full-color layouts appear cramped or confused. Immediately from the first chapter the authors' fluid writing style draws you in, casually introducing you to the pursuit of the night sky. As in previous editions, the flow comfortably builds with each page, easing you into progressively challenging subjects without missing a step.
The text builds though each successive chapter, describing today's plethora of binoculars, telescopes, mounts, eyepieces, and other accessories. We then move on to delve deeply into everything of interest in the sky, from the planets to deep-sky objects. The detailed yet accessible explanation of celestial mechanics should be required reading for everyone. The third part introduces digital astrophotography. Yes, digital--it starts out by stating that film is dead. This new section covers everything you need to get started taking pictures, including some useful parts of Adobe Photoshop. The Backyard Astronomer's Guide closes with a set of beautifully rendered charts of the Milky Way by Glenn LeDrew. Opposing pages display a color version and a labeled, black-on-white version plotted to magnitude 9. Dickinson and Dyer have brought their excellent guide further into the 21st century. I can't recommend it highly enough. (Sean Walker Sky and Telescope 2009-04-01)

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide continues to impress, offering a little something for everyone. If you have never seen this book before, now is the time to add it to your collection. It is one book you will never tire of opening, always finding something of interest in the world of astronomy. (Shelf Life)

With over 500 color photographs and illustrations, this book is a valuable, beautiful and user-friendly astronomy reference. (Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin)

Dickinson and Dyer provide considerable information that amateur astronomers will appreciate... Complementing the informative text are hundreds of colour photographs and illustrations as well as a 20-page, full-colour atlas of the Milky Way that includes 10 charts. This revised and expanded third edition will be of interest to serious amateur astronomers. (Glenn Perrett Simcoe.com 2010-10-02)

About the Author

Terence Dickinson is the author of Night Watch and 13 other astronomy books, among them The Universe and Beyond, Summer Stargazing and Exploring the Night Sky. He is also editor of SkyNews.

Alan Dyer is program producer at the Calgary Science Centre Planetarium and a contributing editor to Sky and Telescope magazine. An authority on commercial telescopes, his reviews of astronomical equipment appear regularly in major astronomy magazines.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books; Enlarged 3rd edition (September 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554073448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554073443
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin M. Vogt on August 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being new to backyard Astronomy, I was a little hesitant to spend the money on this book, as it seemed to be a little expensive. I read a few of the reviews and decided to take the plunge. Now that this book is in my hands, you would have quite a challenge prying it away from me. The authors, Dickenson and Dyer have covered EVERYTHING that I could think of, and then some. The chapter on eyepieces alone was worth the cost of the book, and I made two purchases based upon this info alone. I'm glad I did. They eyepieces that I purchased as a result have really increased the quality of my viewing.

The photos are beautiful and most are taken by the authors. The Milky Way, Galaxies, Nebulas, Constellations, Planets are all in this book along with how best to enjoy or photograph them.

Also not really easy to tell online is the size of this book. It is a glossy, coffee table quality book with all of the technical info that I was looking for, and then some. After scanning and reading the sections of greatest interest, I am now going back through and reading each chapter in full. I never do that in this type of book, but this one is too good to miss anything.

After having this book for a couple of months, I can honestly say that it is one of my most prized astronomy possessions. I cannot think of any case where I got so much really useful information about a subject that I love for so little money. This is an indispensable guide for any backyard astronomer.
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I am a newbee star watcher & this book will be open for a long time. It is just loaded with useful information on everything you need to know, buy, use, do not buy, look at, how to look at, how not to look at, well you get the idea I hope. This book is extremely well illustrated with many high quality photos of star stuff along with equipment needed. It explains in wonderful fashion the history & how tos of astronomy with a primer on celestrial navigation. Then the auhtor shows what you need to do the job right, where to go far away from light pollution if you can & what to do if you can't. What's the best equipment (not the most expensive) what you really need & what you do not need to look at the night sky, sun, comets, etc. There's information on astrophotography & that equipment (now you can talk expensive) & info on ways to do it that's not so expensive. There's info on star parties & where they are, filters, scopes, binocs, tripods, motor drives, goto drives, caution on buying too cheaply, well this book is really well worth it. 6 Stars at least!!
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I was sort of thinking this may be more of a field type guide, one that I could take with me star gazing. It's not. It's a slick, big, beautiful book that you want to put on your coffee table. Does it have good information? Yes, but how many pages do I need on all the particulars of a specific telescope, and more importantly, how many pictures do I need of these specific telescopes? There are tidbits of info in there, you just have to sift through it. I was hoping for more in terms of maps, tips on identifying certain areas of the sky, etc., but it's sort of glossed over, like the big, beautiful photos of the Milky Galaxy that you will never see from your front yard unless you are able to buy a hubble on Amazon...
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This is absolutely perfect. The other reviewers are right- this is exactly the book to get if you need to make a decision about a telescope. Don't buy any piece of optics equipment without consulting this book.

What this book is not:
A guide on how to commune spiritually with the sky. Lolz. But really, this isn't an "imagine the possibilities!!" book, it's a technical manual. Think about it as a really good copy of the procedure for observing the night sky as an amateur. It's perfect for that.

All in all, an excellent guide. It really makes you realize the possibilities of astronomical observation using anything, from the naked eye to binoculars to a remote observatory in the mountains of Chile. You won't regret buying this.
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Well, almost everything...this shows a beginner everything he needs to know about astronomy, from equipment to nebulae to satellites, however, it doesn't show you how to find anything in the sky. the book has some beautiful charts of the milky way in the back but no indication of how to use them or what are the good targets. a few pages describing what targets to search for and how to find them would be very useful to a beginner. "left turn at Orion" would be a good choice for something like that.

It does a fantastic job informing you about everything you need to know about telescopes which i think is the hardest part to getting into star gazing. i just wanted to get a telescope and look in it and nothing else, but i soon realized that you must know your equipment. All good astronomers know their equipment and a lot of times create their own equipment. this is where this book excels. it provides a great, up to date, overview of everything that's out there. having a good reference about equipment isn't "necessary", having the internet and all, but it is VERY convenient. in fact i would say it is necessary. this along with the beautiful pictures,the fun info about planets and the sky and the history of astronomy, this would be a great purchase.
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