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NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe Hardcover-spiral – September 12, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 476 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


[Review-of-previous-edition:] [Nightwatch was] a clear, concise manual for backyard stargazing that also managed to convey the excitement of astronomy. This fantastically revised edition continues that tradition, but now includes sky maps for observers in the southern hemisphere and a guide to celestial phenomena up to 2018. The best introduction around. (Ivan Semeniuk New Scientist 2007-01-20)

Renowned author and astronomer Terence Dickinson took Grade 5 and 6 students from the [North Bay] area through the universe to make snowballs from water and ice particles that make up Saturn's rings, and visit the red liquid methane lakes of its moon, Titan.... "I'm hoping that they'll walk away with excitement about the universe," he said." It's a subject that young people are not discarding. They're living with it. They're interested in it. And they know a lot." (Maria Calabrese The North Bay Nugget 2008-09-11)

This is probably the best handbook for the beginning astronomer. (Drew Monkman The Examiner (Peterborough) 2007-12-11)

Aspiring stargazers will find everything that they need to unlock the secrets of the night sky in this newly updated edition. Public and school libraries will certainly want to update their collections with this book. (Amy Luedtke VOYA)

A "must" for any night-time observer. (Diane C. Donovan The Midwest Book Review 2007-03-01)

A great overall book for the stargazing hobbyist. (Mike Lynch St Paul Pioneer Press 2006-12-17)

General interest introduction to astronomy now in its fourth edition... bends the mind with information. (Barbara Julian Victoria Times-Colonist 2007-01-14)

New, better-quality photos; amped-up sections on astrophotography and using amateur telescopic equipment; and a new chapter on the skies visible from the Southern hemisphere. (Lynn Andriani PublishersWeekly.com 2006-09-05)

This fourth edition of the essential guide for amateur stargazers is newly updated, lavishly illustrated...and packed with facts...and a cosmic closet-full of other astronomical delights. For anyone who ever looked up and wondered what's out there, Nightwatch puts the heavens at your fingertips. (Neil Pond American Profile 2006-11-26)

It may be hard to justify upgrading from later printings of the third edition, but NightWatch remains one of the best sourcebooks to introduce beginning astronomers to the night sky -- and to keep them interested. (Stuart J. Goldman Sky and Telescope 2007-01-01)

[Globe and Mail 2006 Holiday Gift Book selection] Remains perhaps the best book available for amateur astronomers, and makes fascinating browsing even if you never put eye to telescope. (Globe and Mail 2006-12-09)

NightWatch remains the best single source on sky watching and astronomy equipment for the backyard enthusiast. (Randy Groundwater Windsor Star 2006-12-10)

This classic title has revisions in every chapter. (Mercury)

[Review-of-previous-edition:] A great all-round astronomy guide. (Glenn Chaple Astronomy 2002-12-01)

[Review-of-previous-edition:] Easily the best in its field. ... Highly recommended for all libraries. (Choice 1999-04-01)

[Review-of-previous-edition:] Highly recommended as the best of its kind. (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canad)

[Review-of-previous-edition:] This is a book you can confidently recommend to anyone who is just starting out in astronomy. (Astronomical League)

[Review-of-previous-edition:] Absolutely the best book for beginners. (Library Journal 2003-05-01)

A paramount book of sky objects... easy and understandable. This practical guide is a must for the science classroom teacher, the beginning or amateur astronomer, and young and old students of the night. The author gives a sensible, realistic perspective on night sky viewing. I believe this is the best book in its field available to amateurs. (Teri Cosentino The Science Teacher)

With this book, viewing the night skies can become fun again, and a family affair.... A must-have book, to stimulate interest in the heavens above, and away from video games and less productive activities. (Shelf Life, Tenth Anniversary Edition)

If Canadians look at the sky more than anyone else in the world, it's thanks to one of our own....NightWatch, now in its fourth edition, has become a staple in many Canadian cottages and amateur astronomers' bookshelves along with his popular The Backyard Astronomer's Guide. The book has also quietly gone on to be the bestselling stargazer's guide in the world, having been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek and other languages, and selling a stead 25,000 copies or more a year around the world. (Ian Elliot The Whig-Standard 2008-06-07)

This book is widely regarded as the essential guidebook for beginning stargazers. If you buy this book for no other reason that to help you find the North Star, so that you can take images of Star Trails, then it'll be worth your money. (Garry Black Garry Black Photography (GarryBlack.com))

Another must-have.... (Becky Ramotowski, SkyWatch My San Antonio Times (mysa.com) 2008-12-08)

This is a fantastic introductory book chock full of information and charts. Well written and engaging, it is sure to provide all the information to get Dad started looking at the night sky. (John Kulczyzki suite101.com 2010-05-10)

About the Author

Terence Dickinson is the best-selling author of 14 other astronomy books, including The Backyard Astronomer's Guide and Hubble's Universe. He has received many national and international science awards, including the New York Academy of Science Book of the Year Award.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover-spiral: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books; 4th edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155407147X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554071470
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.9 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (476 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Frank A. Whorton on November 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover-spiral Verified Purchase
This is book is so good, you'll regret reading it. Let me tell you why. This is the book that got me started on astronomy. Two telescopes, sleepless nights spent under the stars, and 4 years later; I am $5000 poorer but much more enriched...all because I read this book. Perfect for any beginner, but even this "old head" had to buy the new edition (this is the 4th) since my old one is being passed on to my Dad's house (with our old 6 inch Discovery telescopes reflector) in South Dakota. Great beginner star charts..when I am not chasing the faint fuzzies, I use these charts as a default. Seriously..one of the best Astronomy books out there!
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Format: Hardcover-spiral
Overall an excellent book. It has a great overview of astronomy, and some good guides in what to look for in a telescope and what to look at in a telescope once you have it. Then there are whole sky star maps, and maps broken down to smaller areas. It's got plenty of targets for binoculars and small scopes. So if you're just getting started and have binoculars, but no scope yet, this is a great book. Let me emphasize (as the book does) that a department store telescope is likely worse than a $20 binocular, because it will lead to more frustration than it is worth.

I do wish that the charts maybe had finder views of a few objects as well, perhaps in the bottom margin. A second important thing would be to warn users about what they CAN'T see from an urban or suburban location. You might think that magnitude 7-8 objects would be just visible, but many aren't. Many things that are easy from a dark sky site are very hard or impossible from a city. It doesn't emphasize this enough for beginners who don't have the experience to know this.
Other things to buy might be a plansiphere. Also a more detailed atlas like the Bright Star Atlas, The Cambridge Star Atlas, or for even more detail, the Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas. Keep in mind that the more detail you see, the more confusing it can be. And that's another strong point of this book. The charts in here are very easy to understand and non-threatening, perfect for beginners. And lastly, if you do get a telescope,
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Format: Hardcover-spiral
The overwhelming number of reviews for this book on Amazon is a testimonial to its stature as a classic introductory stargazing book. The fact that the reviews are uniformly positive testifies to its exceptional quality. Now in its fourth edition, Nightwatch has been introducing amateur astronomers to the night sky for over two decades. Terence Dickinson is a prolific astronomy author and this is one of his most important and enduring works.
This is essentially the same as the older editions, some of which I also own. Four new things have been added to the new edition. Tables and data have been update through 2018, there are now southern hemisphere charts (for a Northern hemisphere book, who cares?), there is an updated section on digital astrophotography and some updated information on buying a telescope. I have read many introductory stargazing books and I always find the information about buying a telescope the least interesting. More often than not, the telescope is purchased first and the book is purchased later. An extended section on purchasing a telescope after the fact, after the proverbial horse has left the barn, seems wasteful. Dickerson's section is interesting however. I have not read all his works, but I have read several and Dickerson has uniformly dismissed "go-to" telescopes in favor of "learning the sky." This may be worthwhile for the serious amateur astronomer, but the serious amateur already knows the sky. The true novice may be aided by a telescope that aids him in finding celestial objects so that his cold and dark nights don't end prematurely in frustration. The frustrated novice may never become the "serious" amateur astronomer who benefits from knowing the sky.
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If you are a beginner, buy this book immediately. It is probably fabulous for the rest of you, too. :) I am just getting started myself and have spent just a short time with it. I look forward to learning and appreciating it even more. Beginners absolutely need it. Try to read before you get a telescope, but even if you have made a purchase, will be able to help you make best use of it and help you avoid frustration.

This book is first of all beautiful with many color photographs to enhance the comprehensive text. The content is engaging and easy-to-understand.

Buy, enjoy, and have fun. Also, the book is worth the $35.00 price, but Amazon has a great discount.
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I bought this book some years ago, to see if I wanted to try amateur astronomy again. I had been given a department store telescope as a kid, and was discouraged by the fact that you really couldn't observe anything other than the moon with it. This book gave me the confidence to go out and buy a reasonably expensive telescope, and get it up and running with almost no assistance from anyone else. It opened up a wonderful hobby.

I strongly recommend giving this book to anyone with an interest in amateur astronomy. It is the best guide to getting started in something I've ever seen in my life.
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