Astronomical Society

of Long Island



After you have a telescope, you really need an observing guide with you at the eyepiece, first to find objects you want to look at.  You want to be able to locate constellations, and then the best objects within a particular constellation.  And then there is this:  A friend once said to me that astronomy is 20% observation and 80% imagination.  When you observe an object in the eyepiece, like a globular cluster, it may be interesting at first.  But then curiosity sets in: What IS that?  How far away is it? How did it get that way? So you go to a book and start reading about how large it is, and how far away, and how old it is.  When next you go to the eyepiece, suddenly you will see the same object in a whole new light.  So reading and research is a huge part of this hobby of ours.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for observing guides (with prices)


“Turn Left at Orion” A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope--and How to Find Them, by Guy Consolmagno & Dan Davis. $18.47

This is also a wonderful beginning book, and similar to “Discover” in many ways.  The big difference is that the authors chose one hundred objects. Each object has two pages devoted to it, and three diagrams - a view of the sky showing where to find the object, a “finder” view showing a closer view, and finally, an eyepiece view, and then a “What You’re Looking At” description of the object.

“Discover the Stars,” by Richard Berry. $12

This is the best book for beginning observers, in my opinion, and will be useful for you for many years to come.  I bought my first copy in 1988, used it until it fell apart, and have bought 5 more. It has maps of the whole sky for each month, a section on how the stars appear to move, a section on types of telescopes, a description of the different objects you will see, a moon map, and 21 detailed maps of one or two constellations each, with descriptions of the best objects to observe in each.

“Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders” by Robert and Barbara Thompson.  $22.79

This is the book I “graduated” to about a year and a half ago. It is an incredibly detailed description of so many objects, it will take a lifetime of observing to see them all.  Objects are listed by constellation, and include finder charts of each constellation, detailed finder charts for each object, as well as photographs, and detailed descriptions of how to find some objects.  It includes Messier objects, and hundreds of NGC objects as well.  This book is 520 pages long, and is a goldmine of information.

“The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide” by Terence Dickenson & Alan Dyer.  $32.97

This book is not for use in the field.  it is for reading before and after an observing session.  There are sections on binoculars, telescopes,eyepieces, filters, telescope mounts.  And then sections on the naked eye sky, light pollution, observing the moon, planets, comets, and deep sky objects.  Then sections on astrophotography with digital cameras, high-tech observing - using electronic setting circles, connecting your computer to the telescope - and sections on collimation and cleaning the optics of your telescope.  You will want to own this book some day, trust me!

The Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar promotes skywatching for people of all ages. As its name implies, the sheet for each month takes the form of a calendar. Diagrams in the boxes invite the reader to track the moon's rapid motion past the planets and bright stars of the zodiac, as well as to follow the more leisurely pace of the planets in their gatherings with bright stars and other planets. The reverse side consists of a simplified star map of the month's evening sky. The sky maps are designed for use at a convenient time in mid-evening, for a latitude useful for the entire continental U.S. It is published by Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University.  The Sky Calendar is published in loose-leaf form and mailed quarterly (three pages per mailing, four mailings per year). A subscription may start anytime and consists of twelve issues. Gift subscriptions are welcome. Recipients are sent a notification card, upon request.

Sky Calendar prices are $11.00 for US subscribers. To subscribe please send a check or money order, payable to Michigan State University to: Sky Calendar, Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824