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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2013
An outstanding book filled with excellent references for both the expert and amateur alike. My children were enthralled with the photographs and it has led to many wonderful discussions of what is "out there" and excited (and late) nights viewing the skies. An absolute must!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2013
I do not normally leave reviews but felt I had to in this instance. I was bought this book as a birthday present and I can honestly say this has to be the most accessible book on Astronomy/Cosmology written to date.
You don't need have qualifications in science to understand what is being described.
It has given me a greater appreciation of the wonders and beauty of the night sky. A thoroughly brilliant book and would highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2013
Just finishing this book. Having seen Mark Thompson on Stargazing Live I was aware that he was able to explain details for even the most basic amateur and this book did not disappoint
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2013
I've enjoyed Mark's radio & TV appearances for some time. The only writing of his that I'd read was his twitter account! For anyone who is even vaguely interested in anything to do with astronomy -this is the book for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2013
interesting book, would recommend it to any one who has an interest in space. Well done Mark Thompson thanks . .
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on 20 February 2014
Firstly this is not a complete and detailed guide to the night sky. If you're looking for detailed star charts etc. try Philip's or Collins who produce some excellent guides.

This book is about introducing the reader to the basics of astronomy and the night sky. It is written for the beginner and those with some interest/knowledge all ready. In that regard it doe an excellent job. Thompson has split the book into twelve chapters - one for each month. Each chapter has three sections to it; 1st. details the main topic of interest e.g. chapter 9 talks about the lives of stars, 2nd. astronomical highlights for the month in the Northern hemisphere & 3rd. astronomical highlights for the Southern hemisphere.

For those with some knowledge already the book may come across as a bit lightweight but Thompson writes in a way that is obviously attempting to educate about the basics of the cosmos and astronomy, in conjunction with inspiring readers to take up the hobby. This is something he has done very well and is definitely a book worth recommending to all novices and beginners with an interest in the night sky.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
Mark is a natural communicator and the quality of this book reflects both his enthusiasm for and knowledge of the subject.
I would recommend this to anyone with an general interest in astronomy from beginners onwards.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2013
A very helpful book covering a month-by-month look at the skies in both Northern and Southern hemispheres, which brings to life important historical moments in Astronomy without overwhelming the reader.
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on 1 October 2013
I purchased this as a present for a couple who are always looking at the sky through a telescope trying to work out were everything is
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 August 2014
I got into amateur astronomy at the age of 11, and for a number years took it very seriously – and like pretty well anyone who does, I bought myself a good guide. I’ve still got it, and I treasure it – it’s Patrick Moore’s The Amateur Astronomer. Now Mark Thompson is setting out to do something similar for a new generation, and in reviewing it, I’ve had my Moore book alongside as a touchstone – so this has ended up as a kind of double review.

For those not familiar with Thompson (me included), he apparently appears on the BBC’s early evening magazine show, The One Show and on the BBC’s annual Stargazing Live with the ubiquitous Brian Cox, talking about astronomy. The book is organised in 12 sections, one for each month, with a general information chapter and then star charts for northern and southern hemispheres and a commentary for the month.

When the information chapter keeps to astronomy and the practicalities of it, Thompson is very good. As you might expect, he’s less pedantic and more chatty than Moore writing in 1957 (the book wasn’t new when I bought it!), and he really gets across the enjoyment of getting out there and taking a look at the sky, plus gives good guidance on how to watch meteors (strangely this appears twice), getting the right equipment and a fair amount more. This was solid four star material.

When the information chapters stray into cosmology and physics, Thompson becomes a little more flaky. Of course he’s much more up-to-date on the cosmology than Moore, but I can’t imagine Patrick telling us that Ritter discovered ultraviolet when he noticed that ‘a chemical called sodium chloride’ (i.e. common salt) was turned black by it. I think he means silver chloride.

Thompson also trips up several times on black holes. For example, he tells us that ‘the mass of a black hole is so high even light… is unable to escape.’ This isn’t a matter of mass – in principle you could have a micro black hole with a tiny mass (it just couldn’t form from a star). It’s the extreme curvature of spacetime that stops light getting out, not how big the mass is. His quantum theory is a bit iffy too.

Finally there are the star charts. In Moore’s book these are among a whole host of appendices, which contain loads of fascinating data I used to love poring over as a youth. None of that from Thompson I’m afraid. Moore, rather sensibly doesn’t try to match the map to any particular date. Instead he uses key, easy to find constellations as pointers and builds his maps from these. Thompson gives us Northern hemisphere maps that are only useful to a degree as they stop at the celestial equator. This makes for a strange disconnect with the commentary, as the maps don’t show the whole sky you would see from, say, England. So both January and February’s commentary have a lot to say about Orion – but neither the January or February map shows Orion.

In fact the maps just don’t have enough detail. Moore’s pointer approach means he can dedicated page after page so you can find loads of stars – far more than Thompson ever identifies. Of course you might say with the phone apps and computer planetarium software Thompson mentions and Moore couldn’t even imagine we don’t need maps any more. But I think Moore’s are really useful for getting a working knowledge of the sky – Thompson’s less so.

Overall then, if you want a real astronomer’s guide I would go for the relatively new 2000 edition of Moore’s book. If you don’t really intend to use it and just want to read a bit about astronomy and the cosmos, you could do worse than Thompson’s book. But it’s a shame it wasn’t better. It’s telling that Moore’s book feature’s an astronomical image on the cover (my old edition has a picture of the moon) – Thompson’s, driven by TV-celebrity science, has a picture of him. I know which I’d rather look at.
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