- Paperback: 700 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; REV and Enl Dover ed. edition (February 1, 1978)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486235688
- ISBN-13: 978-0486235684
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System, Vol. 2 REV and Enl Dover ed. Edition
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About the Author
Robert Burnham works at "Astronomy" magazine and is a member of the American Astronomical Society and the American Geophysical Union. He is the author of "Advanced Skywatching,"" Exploring the Starry Sky," and "The Reader's Digest Children's Atlas of the Universe," He lives in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. Alan Dyer is the author of "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide," Jeff Kanipe is the author of "A Skywatcher's Year,"
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Top Customer Reviews
Yes, the book is thirty years old and a little out-of-date. And, the typewritten font looks homely. But that's part of its charm. Burnham initially self-published this very personal book from his kitchen table. Literally. (Astronomy magazine published a very interesting "self-interview" by Burnham in March, 1982 which provides some background on his struggles to get it published.) From a small-press run of looseleaf copies in binders, it became somewhat of a cult classic among amateurs because nothing as detailed like this had been published before. (True, T.W. Webb's "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes" was available, but it was last published in 1917.)
I know of no other book that combines personal, reflective commentary on "mundane" objects like the Big Dipper (officially, the Ursa Major Moving Cluster), and clear, concise descriptions of variable stars, Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams, and finder charts for objects like 3C273, the brightest quasar visible to amateur-sized scopes. (Trust me: spend the 30-minutes or so tracking this last one down at a star party and you'll have a line of folks waiting to look at a faint star-like object, the light of which left 3C273 long before the earth was even formed.)
One side note: if you're interested in the rather tragic life of Burnham, search for "Sky Writer", an article by Tony Ortega, published in the Phoenix, AZ "New Times" newspaper for September 25-October 1, 1997. All readers of Celestial Handbook owe Ortega a nod for the herculean task of piecing together Burnham's life.
Having said that, however, Burnham's is surprisingly well-suited for Kindle. RB was munificent with photographs of stars and deep-sky objects in his handbook, but after all, the entire lot of pictures was medium- to low-quality black-and-white, which the Kindle adequately reproduces. And what the Kindle lacks in greyscale rendering, it more than makes up for in convenience by making the handbooks super portable. I still have my three printed volumes. I will never part with them. But I must admit that when I need them most, they are inconveniently far away at the bottom of my bookcase in another room. There's nothing like the close companionship of the Kindle, especially when it is chock full of our dear old friends such as Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Over the years I've used Burnham's like a typical reference. When I needed information about a celestial object, I'd see what RB had to say about it. But in Kindle format, I find myself actually reading the handbooks like a book. Imagine that! I feel even closer to RB when I read his meanderings on the Kindle. In fact, in the short time I've had Burnham's on my Kindle, I've read it much more than I read the printed volumes in three decades!
Burnham's is multidimensional. It's arranged sensibly. It follows a few basic conventions set forth by the author, making the thousands of pages easy to navigate. The tables of grouped objects (stars, double-stars, deep-sky star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies) in each constellation are followed by interesting and insightful descriptions and illustrations of the brightest and best. RB's passion for organization and classification was seasoned by a love of literature and sky lore, which turns an otherwise dull science tome into a delightful fireside read. It's the stuff that used to keep amateur astronomers occupied on cloudy nights. Today, there are so many online informative and interactive resources that Burnham's lies sadly like a long-forgot childhood toy, under the bed with the dust bunnies.
You can bring Burnham's back to life on your Kindle and read it for pleasure or for information. While astronomy is one of those constantly evolving sciences, there is something that will keep Burnham's around forever: the treasures of the night sky. For most of us, the path our eyes take through the universe is uncharted. We wander willy-nilly through the constellations, often not digging into them very deeply, and sometimes missing the obvious. Burnham's is a treasure map. As you fan through its pages, the glint of a galaxy or the sparkle of a star cluster will catch your eye and you'll say, "What? I didn't know there's a galaxy like that in Camelopardalis!" On your next night out with your telescope, you'll have something new to look for or take a picture of with your telescope and camera. And it doesn't matter if you can't "fan the pages" of a Kindle book. You can use the "Go To" menu and pick a random constellation. Explore it through the words, pictures, and personal experience of RB.
The history of astronomy is as fascinating as the science itself. Much of RB's text references the observations and musings of astronomers from long ago. This also makes the Celestial Handbook a classic and timeless piece of literature. It really does hold up well to the test of time. I'm probably preaching to the choir.
In short, if you are just beginning a journey to the stars, or if you veered off course a while ago and want to rekindle your interest in the wonders of astronomy, I highly recommend Burnham's. Download a free sky charting program for your PC, like "Cartes du Ciel," or use a smartphone app or planisphere to acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with the stars and constellations. Then put Burnham's on your Kindle, get yourself a telescope, and begin your treasure hunt in the sky.