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The Stargazing Year: A Backyard Astronomer's Journey Through the Seasons of the Night Sky

The Stargazing Year: A Backyard Astronomer's Journey Through the Seasons of the Night Sky [Kindle Edition]

Charles Laird Calia

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Product Description

Product Description

Aquarter century after giving up his first telescope, Charles Laird Calia lay down one evening on his front lawn with his two young daughters, looked up at the stars, and rediscovered a childhood passion. Part primer on the science and history of astronomical observation, part love poem to the night sky, The Stargazing Year is an amateur astronomer's beautifully written account of a year spent observing the cosmos and building an observatory in his New England backyard.

What has inspired millions of people over the millennia to sit quietly in the dark, studying the stars? In twelve chapters spanning the twelve months of the night sky, Calia elegantly weaves the history of amateur astronomy and astronomers with a humorous account of his own obsessive quest to build the ideal backyard observatory. From Galileo's first telescope to the star-infused poetry of Robert Frost, The Stargazing Year details the trials and passions that have fueled amateur astronomers for centuries. It also sheds light on a vibrant new generation of stargazers who, thanks to the affordable equipment available today, have made inroads into the study of variable stars and comets that have proven immensely valuable to scientists. The story of how, one starlit evening, the galaxy opened its arms again to one man again, The Stargazing Year is a paean to the universe and its many mysteries.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3000 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Reputation Books (5 Jun 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,128,785 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serendipity! Charles Calia has written a gem of a book! 10 July 2005
By Roy E. Perry - Published on
In the opening sentence of his "Conclusion" to The Critique of Practical Reason (1788), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) wrote: "Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."

In The Stargazing Year, Charles Laird Calia, while apparently having no significant quarrel with "the moral law within," writes of how his imagination was hooked at an early age in Pennsylvania and Minnesota by wonder, admiration, and awe at "the starry heavens above," and how he came full circle, after the passage of half a lifetime, to his fascination with the stars, his own return to the eternal return of the night sky.

Tracing the trajectories of the heavens, he simultaneously traces the trajectory of his own life: "Nostalgia is part and parcel of the human condition, a natural gift of aging, and it protects us from the message that the universe telegraphs to us with frightening accuracy. You are small and will soon be forgotten."

A frequent contributor to Sky & Telescope magazine, Calia is a member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, and the British Astronomical Association. He now lives in Connecticut with his wife and two daughters, where he has built a backyard observatory.

Calia divides The Stargazing Year into 12 chapters, January through December, cataloguing the transit of the seasons from winter to autumn, and the changing constellations of the heavens.

Stumbling across Calia's work is a remarkable example of serendipity, a fortunate discovery, for The Stargazing Year is charmingly written, insightfully informative, and delightfully funny--a gem of a book.

Escaping from the planetary pull of his mother's obsession with astrology, Calia developed an obsession of his own, a passion for and love of astronomy. Under the watchful eye of his wife, who keeps a close watch over family expenditures, Calia's account of building his backyard observatory is hilarious, as he fumbles and flounders his way through the daunting construction, with help from the guy in the orange jacket at Home Depot.

The book is star-studded with arresting metaphors, similes, and analogies and an ingratiating self-deprecating humor. Think the staccato-voiced words of Rod Serling. Think the bucolic poetic lyricism of Robert Frost. Think the sly wit and wisdom of Mark Twain. Think the whimsy and zany inventiveness of Douglas Adams. Think the contagious enthusiasm and passion of Carl Sagan.

"Love can bring us a long distance," writes Calia, "if we take notice. I finally did. Throughout a celestial season, I had spent twelve months noticing, watching comets and asteroids, faint galaxies, sunspots, and distant stars. Creation unfolding. Some may witness the unfolding of the universe, like a gathering of planets, as comforting, a creation that cares enough to influence us, and they interpret it as such--a mystery with human fingerprints. Others scoff and find no connection where none was intended. Both sides miss the point, I think. And therein lies perhaps the greatest mystery: not how strange it is for the universe to unfold, but rather, that there is a universe to unfold at all."

Along the way, we learn a lot about astronomical history, such as Galileo and Tycho Brahe, and we are enthralled by Calia's playfully anthropomorphic description of the constellations as the mythological movements of predators and prey, monsters and mavericks, lovely maidens and rescuing heroes.

This paean to the cosmos is a joy to read. A word of caution, however, is in order: The Stargazing Year may send you scurrying to the nearest supply store to purchase a telescope. If so, I can envision Calia exulting, "My work here is done!"

Roy E. Perry of Nolensville is an advertising copywriter at a Nashville publishing house.

Note: An alternate translation(by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott) of the quotation by Kant is: "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't *quite* hit the mark for me, covers a lot of angles 24 Oct 2007
By R. J. McCabe - Published on
Calia rediscovers his early love of stargazing, and takes us along for the ride.

Targeted more to the general public than astronomy buffs, it seemed to me this book tried to cover too many angles. Some topics are likely to be of more interest to the individual reader than others.

On one front, this is the story of his reawakened interest in astronomy, acquisition of a few telescopes, and his ambitious effort to build a backyard observatory. It's also monthly compendium of the constellations in the night sky and the legends surrounding them. Thrown in are a few highlights of what to observe in and around the constellations. Finally, there's the family interactions around this endeavor involving his wife and daughters.

All in all, I enjoyed the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book 1 Feb 2011
By Charles Hall - Published on
While it's true what another reviewer said, that the book is choppy and bounces around from topic to topic, I must say I really enjoyed reading it. Yes, as an amateur astronomer I really wanted to know the technical details of his telescope selection, to see a drawing of his split roof design, etc.; but it didn't seem to deter my enjoyment of the book. He has captured the spirit of amateur astronomers, and the feelings an adult has upon re-visiting a childhood hobby with the financial muscle of a grown-up.

I found the book highly entertaining. And amongst his many history of astronomy tidbits, I found quite a few that were new to me, despite having read a number of astronomy history books recently.
5.0 out of 5 stars Childhood resurfaced 8 Jun 2014
By Gollylag - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is not what you did, what you accomplished, or what you are trying to be- it's what you are, my friend.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST! 8 Jan 2009
By Swubird - Published on
The Stargazing Year: A Backyard Astronomer's Journey Through the Seasons of the Night Skyisn't about astronomy, even though astronomy is definitely its theme. It's really about one man's love of astronomy and his dogged determination to build a backyard observatory in the harsh winter of Connecticut. It's a true story and accurate story right down to pounding the last bent nail into the roof, or coffin, depending on the weather and your personal perspective.

The book is easy to read, and the author deftly sidesteps the sticky scientific facts in favor of the main objective, which is building his observatory. In the end, it chronicles one man's fight to twist and turn and prod and shape the harsh, cold environment into his personal observational platform. It's proof once again that hard work and determination will always win out.

I recommend the book to anyone who ever dreamed about building his or her own backyard observatory. In fact, it should be required reading. Who knows? It could change your mind!
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