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Stargazing Journal Diary – August 1, 2006
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GREAT observing logbook for all levels, first-timer to experienced. Much of this review is directed toward a somewhat-experienced observer, but if you are a beginner, it applies to you too. Buying astro books sight-unseen is a risky proposition, so I'll provide tons of detail about what this book contains, and why it is helpful.
THE PROBLEM WITH OTHER OBSERVING BOOKS AND LOGBOOKS
If you're like me, you are slightly annoyed at the lack of PRACTICAL astronomy observing books out there for seasoned observers. Most astro books are the extremely basic, "this is what a galaxy is, this is how the sun works" kind that are ubiquitous in the bargain bins at your local BorderNobles. Those few books that deal with actual OBSERVING always seem to be the very, very insultingly basic type: "here's why you need a red flashlight, use one of these four seasonal charts, the larger dots mean brighter stars". There's an endless supply of such beginner books out there.
But what about practical things for those of us who KNOW all the basic things, but we want to develop and improve our observing skills? Those of us who want to learn about new deep-sky targets to seek out? The market is flooded at beginner level, but drops off quickly for people like us.
I've seen other "observing journals" out there; they are usually part of a beginner package that includes a planisphere, etc. If you were to examine these, they would be really annoyingly basic-- entry spots for "how many constellations did you see!" and "did you see the moon?", interspersed with all sorts of useless junk like zodiac folklore.
HOW THIS JOURNAL IS THE SOLUTION:
If you are beyond that very basic type of logbook-- as most any observer is, even beginning-- then THIS is the logbook for you. It's flexible enough to be great for both first-timers as well as seasoned deep-sky observers; and includes some really neat "extras" that help you grow your observing regardless of what level you're at. And as an added bonus, it contains features that help you plan your observing. (So it's more than just a logbook!)
WHAT THIS BOOK CONTAINS:
So that you know exactly what you're getting, here's a very detailed description:
--Binding: very durable; flexible (so that it bends and pages don't become unattached); has a thin elastic strap that is built in to the cover, you stretch the elastic around the open end of the book and it helps keep it shut. The print on the cover is simple and elegant (see picture), and the stars glow in the dark, which is kind of fun.
--Paper: durable. Not coated or dew resistant like some field guides are, but remember that you'll be WRITING IN IT so the surface of the paper can't be something very coated! :P Incidentally, remember to use a pen/pencil that won't smear or run if it gets damp or wet.
--Observation pages: I didn't count, but the product info says it's 160 pages. Subtracting out overhead and then noting that every observation entry contains two pages, you probably have about 70 separate nights' worth of entries. Should last quite a while for most of us!
The left page of an observation entry: contains a header with date, time, and a small circle to indicate moon phase. The top half of the left page contains lines labeled: location, companions, observing conditions, and equipment. The lower half of the left page is dedicated to a "target list" entry, which is great because it helps you plan your observing night!
The right page is simply labeled "observations", and it contains one circle (slightly larger than 2" in diameter) to make a drawing. That circle takes up the lower right fourth of the page.
So that combination of two pages is repeated about 70 times.
VERY HELPFUL BONUS FEATURES:
Then in the back, there are a few bonuses, which really make this book phenomenal:
--Stargazing supplies checklist (okay, this is kinda basic, but nice to have here)
--"Wish list" to record objects that you are "on the lookout for or hope to someday observe"-- this is a GREAT thing to include!
--blank page designated to write down "recommended books, magazines, and other references." So when you're at a star party and someone mentions a good book, chart, website, etc. you can write it down. GREAT!
--"location wish list" of places/locations that you would like to go observing at. This too is a GREAT thing that other logbooks lack.
--blank page designated to record clubs, events, local gatherings
--blank page designated to record an equipment wishlist-- again, so when you're at a star party and you look through someone else's awesome eyepiece, you can write down what it is. (No, they don't pre-print "Tele Vue")
--Universal Time converter
--Greek alphabet in symbols and written out
--Constellation list that has official IAU abbreviations and English names (for example: Canes Venatici = CVn = hunting dogs)
--Eyepiece equations: formulas for calculating field of view, magnification, etc. as well as a chart to record this information for your own set of eyepieces-- VERY handy! Wow! This is my favorite thing about the entire book-- you will have info handy about the field of view of your scope/eyepiece combinations, VERY helpful when looking at charts.
--Seeing and transparency scales described, including (and this rocks) known stars to measure these against
Two of these are very small complaints, and one might or might not be a complaint depending on your own personal log style. That one is the only reason why I give this book four stars rather than five.
First, it has no page numbers. That's not absolutely crucial in a logbook, where you do it "diary style" and you're always using the next/latest page; but it could be handy to make notes in it like "see other observation from last summer, pg. 42".
Second, although the binding is flexible, which is very helpful, a spiral binding (or other type that can lay open on its own) would be better. However, the upside of this binding is that this one looks really NICE-- it would look quite elegant on a bookshelf.
Third-- and this is the thing that is a matter of personal preference-- each double-page entry has only one circle for a field drawing of an object. So if your aim is to make a lot of drawings in a night of observing, you will probably need to bring extra paper to do so. Otherwise, this journal only allows for one drawing per double page. This is the ONLY reason why the rating loses a star, and if I could take away only half a star, I would. If you would rather describe things in words, list things seen, etc.-- that is, if you would rather write than draw-- then this lack of drawing space is actually kind of nice.
I know this is a very long review but I wanted to take the time to type it all out because this book is WELL WORTH IT. Kudos to the author/designer for putting this together in a format that is VERY effective while still being flexible, and for not insulting our intelligence!
Buying astro books without being able to flip through them is always a (will this get filtered out? see are aaay peeee shoot.) So I wanted to provide a horrendously detailed description of this one so that you know what you're getting!