Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
Excellent guide to backyard astronomy!
on February 25, 2015
As the number one selling amateur astronomy book in the world (and here on Amazon), I think most would buy this holding fairly high expectations. And I am happy to report that for the most part, the book lives up to the hype. It provides an easily accessible framework based on the constellations of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and Orion for then orienting and helping any amateur astronomer to get out viewing under the stars. The chapters are logically laid out from understanding the scale of the universe to the layout of the constellations to picking a first telescope to the observation of major celestial sights. Mr Dickinson does a great job of including some great inserts on major star names and their origins, future upcoming lunar and solar eclipses and detailed data on how to view the planets. Perhaps my favorite illustration of the book is the one showing the constellations of the Zodiac laid out in the correct direction relative to the Milky Way galaxy. There are also a great many detailed star charts available in the book which will help any northern hemisphere owner achieve proper orientation to the night sky. The book is also very good as discussing amateur astronomy from several points of view, including naked eye observation, binocular viewing and for those owning telescopes.
At about 190 pages, the book can easily be read over the period of a week or so with the observer then coming back frequently to use the star charts. The only caveat I can think of is that the book is perhaps not as detailed as some gear heads and more serious observers might hope for. As a complete newbie when I purchased the book, I found every chapter insightful but now that I have more experience, I would also recommend interested readers who want more meat to take a look at another book by Dickinson, 'The Backyard Astronomer's Guide'. BAG as it is known to astronomers is basically a more detailed version of Nightwatch. It has some of the basic detail of Nightwatch but with a great deal of depth that Nightwatch does not have (especially concerning telescope gear and equipment) plus many new topics. Nightwatch does have many nice sky maps which BAG does not. Basically if you wish to get into night sky viewing occasionally or without equipment, or with binoculars or a small cheaper telescope, then Nightwatch is your best bet. However, if you are pretty sure that celestial viewing is going to be a major hobby for you and you crave more detail, then I recommend ordering Nightwatch and the BAG book together.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book and am still using the star charts during observations. There is no wasted space in the book and it will certainly help out any new backyard astronomer. Easily five stars!