Most amateur astronomers have a comprehensive library of books - field guides, observing guides, star atlases and charts, and "how - to" books, not to mention the back copies of magazines saved for years because of a few useful, interesting or informative pages contained within. And with the wealth of information available online, there is no shortage of advice and inspiration for observers of all experience levels. But what do you do if you feel overwhelmed by all this, and how do you sort the "diamonds" from the "rubble", so to speak. Until recently, you spent years experimenting and asking around for advice, making mistakes along the way, but learning all the time. Now all you need to do is buy this book! Robert and Barbara Thompson have given the astronomical community the benefit of their years of experience, and compiled what will quite probably be the most significant astronomy book of the decade. Written in an informal and engaging style, reading it is like having a seasoned veteran observer standing at your side to quietly offer intelligent and honest advice, and to show you how to find hundreds of the most impressive sights of the deep sky. The book is arranged by constellations easily visible from the northern hemisphere, and lists all those objects contained in the most popular and globally accepted observing lists, such as the Messier catalogue, the RASC "Finest NGC's", and selected multiple stars. Each object has a detailed finder chart and a black & white image, which at first glance is rather underwhelming, but is cleverly designed to be an accurate representation of what is visible in a small telescope. There is space on each page to make notes and small drawings, and a clear and concise description of how to find it and what to look for when you do.
I am rarely impressed enough to write book reviews, but in this case I have made an exception, because this is an exceptional book. It is the one I will unreservedly recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest in astronomy, who has just bought a telescope and is wondering what to do next. The Thompson's have achieved what many more eminent writers have tried but failed to do - to write a practical, informative, realistic and user-friendly guide to the night sky. Armed with a telescope, this book, and a set of star charts, you will be equipped for many productive and enjoyable years of observing, and when you have logged everything in the book, will have a valuable record of your progression from beginner to "Grand Master" of astronomy.
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