Did you look up in lockdown? Millions did and have since developed a fascination with the night sky, but stargazing and astronomy isn’t easy for beginners. The best way to get more from the night sky and to delve deeper into astronomy is to learn from the experts, many of whom prepared excellent, easy to read books during the various lockdowns.
Here are some of the finest new space, stargazing and astronomy books to delve into this winter—or to treat someone else to this Christmas.
The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide: Fourth Edition
By Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer
How do go from being a casual stargazer to an accomplished amateur astronomer? You buy this book, that’s how. An exhaustive large-format hardback book full of diagrams and color photos, this “sky bible” first published in 1991 here gets a fresh edition.
A product of the lockdown—as many of the books here are—this new version now runs to 416 pages, includes more observing guidance, and has fresh advice on the very latest telescopes, binoculars and smartphones.
As someone who travels to the southern hemisphere I also appreciated the lack of northern hemisphere bias, which blights so many “complete guides” to the night sky, and the coverage of both lunar and solar eclipses.
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Northern Lights: The Definitive Guide To Auroras
By Tom Kerss
Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Would you know what to do if they appeared in front of you? Host of the Star Signs weekly stargazing podcast and founder of Stargazing.London, Tom Kerss’ guide to the Northern Lights goes way deeper than you might expect.
While packed with basic, practical information about how to see and photograph the Northern Lights this book also includes a wonderful overview of aurora through the centuries. Inside are some gems about how our planet’s magnetosphere works to just how and why Captain Cook witnessed the aurora in 1770 while sailing south of the equator.
In you’re headed to the Arctic Circle then this guide will help to get the most out of your trip.
Atlas of Solar Eclipses: 2020 to 2045
By Michael Zeiler and Michael E. Bakich (GreatAmericanEclipse.com)
Although originally launched in 2020, that year’s total solar eclipse was poorly attended due to COVID-19. So if you’re getting your travel legs back and thinking about taking new adventures check out this excellent, authoritative and entertaining reference book of all the solar eclipses —partial, annular (“ring of fire”) and the hallowed total—that will grace our planet through 2045 … which is going to be a big one for North America.
The Secret World of Stargazing
By Adrian West @VirtualAstro
“There are billions of humans on this planet, and only a tiny fraction of us understand and enjoy the night sky.” So says Adrian West, better known as @VirtualAstro on Twitter, on the exclusive yet increasingly inclusive hobby that’s currently on-trend.
In this accessible and feel-good stargazing guide he majors on how looking up at the night sky is good for mental well-being. A book born out of the pandemic lockdowns, its 14 chapters cover everything from getting started to what to look at each season. It also touches on an obsession of the author on Twitter—bright passes of satellites such as the International Space Station (ISS).
Written from the heart but with expert tips, The Secret World of Stargazing acts as a succinct and simple to understand manual for any “accidental stargazers” who picked up the habit during 2020 and now want to take the next step and learn to navigate and to know the night sky.
Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System
By Natalie Starkey
Space volcanoes are fascinating. They’re how a planetary body cools itself down, releasing excess heat into space. For geologists, volcanoes on a planet or moon is evidence that a world is active—alive!
But spewing ice? Volcanoes do that? They do on Triton, a moon of Neptune, and on Enceladus at Saturn. Weird Titan at Saturn may even have ice volcanoes that pump out methane.
The first to examine the extra-terrestrial volcanoes of our Solar System, Natalie Starkey’s latest is an explosive read in more ways than one that will give you a new perspective on both the planets closest to us and of the darker corners of our Solar System.
Philip’s Stargazing 2022: Britain and Ireland
By Nigel Henbest
If you’re going to be a good stargazer you need to know exactly what’s going happen, when, and where you’ll be able to see it from where you live. You can do a lot of that online, but a much easier way is to read this short, accessible guide to the night sky that for the first time includes information on basic astrophotography and a dark sky map of Britain and Ireland.
So what’s going to happen above us in 2022? Highlights include a fabulous conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, a total eclipse of the Moon and a rare occultation of a bright Mars by the Moon.
With each month treated to a summary of highlights, a calendar of events and a handy skychart, this timely guide from Dr. Nigel Henbest—who had been writing the annual Philip’s guide with the late Dr. Heather Couper for many years—is an excellent way to prepare your eyes for clear skies.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.