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Category >>   Observing Guides
   Compact field guides, deep-sky handbooks, and books featuring night sky tours for small telescopes.
  2020 Guide to the Night Sky
A Month-by-month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America

by Storm Dunlop and Wil Tirion
112 pages, September 2019
Level: All

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  • Description: 2020 Guide to the Night Sky is the ideal resource for novices and experienced amateurs in the United States and Canada, and has been updated to include 16 more pages of even more new and practical information covering events to occur in North America's night sky throughout 2020. The book has all of the guidance, information and data that skywatchers need.

    • Astrotourism -- Aurora borealis has long influenced a decision to visit a location (e.g., Iceland, Alaska, northern Canada) but now we know that major celestial events, exceptional viewing sites and even world-leading telescopes are drawing travelers to the extent that it needed a name: astrotourism. The book includes new charts with helpful information about the best times and places to travel, such as a tour or cruise.
    • The hospitality industry has seen strong growth linked to astronomical events and to stargazing destinations. More than 50,000 Airbnb guests from 26 countries visited the US for the 2017 solar eclipse, and there were nearly 3000 private homes offering telescopes for viewing.
    • As space probes, including the seemingly immortal Hubble Telescope, take our cameras to worlds farther and farther away, even to Mars, we want to see as much of it as possible. Observatory tours are increasing, such as visits to the world's largest telescope, the Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain.
    • 2020 Guide to the Night Sky is organized by month and provides lunar phases, planet activity, constellation maps and tables of planet and star movement, and sky activity and events. Each month has all of the compass points, dates and exact times to view the planets. There are also monthly constellation maps with dates, times and hourly rates of comets, fireballs, and meteor showers. Skywatchers in the United States and Canada won't miss a thing. Even with just binoculars.
    • Amateur astronomers have come to rely upon and expect each year's edition of this proven sell-through title. It is the handy reference they grab as they head out to do some skywatching, and now they can use it to plan an astrovacation.
    Amazon.com Customer Comment (2018 Edition): With 2018 Guide to the Night Sky, amateur astronomers can view the sky over the course of a year and not miss a thing. It is also a compact and comprehensive introduction to astronomy... The small and light format makes this book the ideal portable reference. more»
      Star and Planets
    The Most Complete Guide to the Stars, Planets, Galaxies, and Solar System

    by Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion
    400 pages, October 2017
    Level: All

    Highly Recommended

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    Description: In this newly updated and expanded edition of their classic work, Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion illuminate the night sky as never before, providing novice stargazers and professional astronomers alike with the most informative, user-friendly, comprehensive, and authoritative celestial field guide available. The product of a thirty-year collaboration between one of the world's leading astronomy writers and the world's foremost celestial mapmaker, Stars and Planets features superb color sky charts, diagrams, or photographs on almost every page; clear and engaging writing; a spacious and attractive design; and a compact size.

    This updated edition features the latest information on stars, a revised section on planets that incorporates recent research on exoplanets, and some revised charts and new photographs. Simply put, Stars and Planets is indispensable. Don't leave home -- at night -- without it.

  • Detailed charts covering all 88 constellations in the Northern and Southern hemispheres
  • Data and notes on all bright stars and other objects of interest
  • Detailed Moon maps and descriptions of the main lunar features
  • Tips on choosing and using binoculars and telescopes, to suit any budget
  • The only guide to provide annual planetary data as a downloadable online resource
  • Updates include the latest data on stars and exoplanets and some revised charts and new photos
  • Amazon.com Customer Comment: I bought this book for an astronomy class but I'm definitely keeping it even after the class is over. Has very useful information and star charts. more»

      National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky
    by Andrew Fazekas and Howard Schneider
    288 pages, 2nd Edition, March 2019
    Level: All

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    Description: Explore the star-studded cosmos with this fully updated, user-friendly skywatcher's guide, filled with charts, graphics, photographs, and expert tips for viewing -- and understanding -- the wonders of space.

    Stargazing's too much fun to leave to astronomers. In these inviting pages, "Night Sky Guy" Andrew Fazekas takes an expert but easygoing approach that will delight would-be astronomers of all levels. Essential information, organized logically, brings the solar system, stars, and planets to life in your own backyard. Start with the easiest constellations and then "star-hop" across the night sky to find others nearby. Learn about the dark side of the moon, how to pick Mars out of a planetary lineup, and which kinds of stars twinkle in your favorite constellations. Hands-on tips and techniques for observing with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope help make the most out of sightings and astronomical phenomena such as eclipses and meteor showers. Photographs and graphics present key facts in an easy-to-understand format, explaining heavenly phenomena such as black holes, solar flares, and supernovas. Revised to make skywatching even easier for the whole family, this indispensable guide shines light on the night sky--truly one of the greatest shows on Earth!

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: I'm so happy with this book! All the other books I was searching seemed to either be children's books or textbooks for astronomers, but this one is the exact level I wanted.
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    Turn Left at Orion   Turn Left at Orion
    Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope and How to Find Them

    by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis
    256 pages, 600 b/w illus., 20 tables, 5th Edition, January 2019
    Level: Beginner to Intermediate

    Highly Recommended

    List Price: $34.95
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    Turn Left at Orion is widely regarded as the single best guide for the beginner with a new telescope. Using bright stars in the sky, Turn Left at Orion will guide the new telescope owner to dozens of interesting objects even if they don't know the constellations. Contains easy to use finder charts and illustrations that show what the objects actually look like through a telescope. A clear and very readable text.

    Description: With over 150,000 copies sold since first publication, this is one of the most popular astronomy books of all time. It is a unique guidebook to the night sky, providing all the information you need to observe a whole host of celestial objects. With a new spiral binding, this edition is even easier to use outdoors at the telescope and is the ideal beginner's book. Keeping its distinct one-object-per-spread format, this edition is also designed for Dobsonian telescopes, as well as for smaller reflectors and refractors, and covers Southern hemisphere objects in more detail. Large-format eyepiece views, positioned side-by-side, show objects exactly as they are seen through a telescope, and with improved directions, updated tables of astronomical information and an expanded night-by-night Moon section, it has never been easier to explore the night sky on your own.

    New in the 5th Edition:

    • Links to a dedicated webpage with up-to-date tables and images.
    • Updated star names and astronomical information.
    • Chapter on planets has been rewritten to include pages for Uranus, Neptune, asteroids and comets.
    • New section has been added on observing solar eclipses
    About the Author: Guy Consolmagno is the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Vatican City. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications, primarily on meteorite and asteroid properties. The International Astronomical Union named asteroid 4597 Consolmagno in recognition of his work, and in 2014 he won the Carl Sagan Medal for public outreach from the American Astronomical Society.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: If you are even contemplating the hobby, buy this book. Spiral binding gives huge, easy-to-reference diagrams and descriptions for those who have never looked down a scope. I own a dobsonian 8" and can confirm the sketches as dead-on for what you can expect to see. Painfully easy to use. more»

    Deep-Sky Wonders -- A Tour of the Universe by Sue French   Deep-Sky Wonders
    A Tour of the Universe

    by Sue French
    320 pages, September 2011
    Level: Intermediate to Advanced

    Highly Recommended

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    Description: Sue French's elegant, informative monthly columns in Sky and Telescope magazine have won this astronomy writer a passionate following among astronomy enthusiasts. In 2005, French published 60 of these columns in Celestial Sampler, a book that garnered rave reviews and earned bestseller sales.

    Deep-Sky Wonders is a welcome expansion of that winning format. A new collection of the best of French's "Deep-Sky Wonders" columns, the book is organized by season and subdivided into months, offering readers a total of 100 in-depth tours of the deep sky with enduring relevance.

    The book includes:

  • Full-color photographs and detailed sketches of each tour
  • Descriptions of double and variable stars, star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and exotics
  • Historical and scientific background of particular interest
  • A tabular listing of the deep-sky sights
  • Color charts showing the position of each target in the night sky
  • An index to all of the deep-sky objects covered.
  • Deep-Sky Wonders also features a variety of challenging objects that encourage observers to test the limits of their equipment and skills. Fragments of poetry and prose enliven the text, while each tour illuminates little-known seasonal wonders that lie off the beaten path. From a January journey down the celestial river Eridanus to an autumnal visit to the den of Vulpecula, the Little Fox, French brings the wonders of the sky to life.

    Suitable for beginning and intermediate small-scope astronomers as well as large-scope viewers and astrophotographers, this book will be greeted enthusiastically by all Sky and Telescope readers, especially French's many fans. It is also an outstanding introduction to deep-sky viewing for novice observers.

    About the Author: Sue French has been an avid deep-sky observer for 32 years and has worked as a planetarium educator for 18 years. She sets up her telescope in her backyard near Schenectady, New York, but travels regularly to enjoy the deep sky from different vantage points.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: Very well, and carefully written articles, with beautiful illustrations. The articles are short enough to consume in a single sitting, and provide interesting sessions to look forward to, for the backyard astronomy hobbyist who already has some experience and knowledge of telescopes. more»

      Dark Skies (Lonely Planet)
    by Valerie Stimac and Lonely Planet
    288 pages, 1st Edition, September 2019
    Level: All

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    Description: Witnessing the sweep of the Milky Way, the remains of comets burning up in our atmosphere, or the shimmering aurora, we better understand the universe and our place in it. Lonely Planet's Dark Skies, the first world's guide to astrotourism, can help you experience all of this and more first-hand.

    Meticulously researched by dark sky expert Valerie Stimac, this comprehensive companion includes guides to 35 dark-sky sites and national parks, where to see the aurora, the next decade of total solar eclipses and how to view rocket launches, plus the lowdown on commercial space flight, observatories and meteor showers.

    Dark Skies is divided into sections to help you plan your dark sky tour:

    • Stargazing focuses on the basics of appreciating the dark sky, with an overview on how to stargaze and what types of objects to look for, as well as tips for the urban stargazer.
    • Dark Places is devoted to 35 of the best places around the globe for stargazing and experiencing the night sky, including sites designated by the Dark Sky Association.
    • Astronomy in Action features some of the world's top research facilities and observatories,where you can get a closer look at space science.
    • Meteor Showers has everything you need to know about the most consistent and impressive meteor showers that happen annually.
    • Aurora is divided into two parts, one focusing on the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and the other on the aurora australis in the southern hemisphere.
    • Eclipses follows the schedule of total solar eclipses over the next decade. If you've never experienced totality, here is your definitive guide to planning your trip.
    • Launches helps you experience a different side of astrotourism: rocket launches and the countries that allow you to travel to see them.
    • Space Tourism discusses the future of humans in space -- including you! The major players in the evolving space tourism market are detailed, plus the world's most common destinations and experiences.
    About Lonely Planet:
    Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, on mobile, video and in 14 languages, 12 international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.
    Cosmic Challenge by Phil Harrington   Cosmic Challenge
    The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs

    by Philip S. Harrington
    478 pages, July 2019
    Level: All

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    Description: Listing more than 500 sky targets, both near and far, in 187 challenges, this observing guide will test novice astronomers and advanced veterans alike. Its unique mix of Solar System and deep-sky targets will have observers hunting for the Apollo lunar landing sites, searching for satellites orbiting the outermost planets, and exploring hundreds of star clusters, nebulae, distant galaxies, and quasars.

    Each target object is accompanied by a rating indicating how difficult the object is to find, an in-depth visual description, an illustration showing how the object realistically looks, and a detailed finder chart to help you find each challenge quickly and effectively. This guide introduces objects often overlooked in other observing guides and challenges are provided for the naked eye, through binoculars, to the largest backyard telescopes.

    This latest edition has updated charts and data tables to challenge observers for many years to come.

    About the Author: A lifelong amateur astronomer, Phil Harrington was bitten by the "astronomical bug" when he was assigned to watch the total lunar eclipse of April 1968 as a homework assignment. Since then, Phil has spent countless hours touring the universe through telescopes and binoculars. He is a former staff member of New York City's Hayden Planetarium and instructor at the Vanderbilt Planetarium in Centerport, New York. Phil is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York, where he teaches courses in stellar and planetary astronomy. He is also a contributing editor for Astronomy magazine, where he frequently reviews telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomical equipment, as well as the magazine's monthly "Binocular Universe" column.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: Harrington's book is attractive and very well organized. Following an introductory chapter about equipment and observing tips, he divides his cosmic challenges into categories based on instrument size, from naked-eye and binoculars to telescopes ranging from small to "monster" scopes. more»

      An Anthology of Visual Double Stars
    by Bob Argyle, Andrew James and Mike Swan (illustrator)
    486 pages, 1st Edition, October 2019
    Level: All

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    Description: Modern telescopes of even modest aperture can show thousands of double stars. Many are faint and unremarkable but hundreds are worth searching out. Veteran double-star observer Bob Argyle and his co-authors take a close-up look at their selection of 175 of the night sky's most interesting double and multiple stars. The history of each system is laid out from the original discovery to what we know at the present time about the stars.

    Wide-field finder charts are presented for each system along with plots of the apparent orbits and predicted future positions for the orbital systems. Recent measurements of each system are included which will help you to decide whether they can be seen in your telescope, as well as giving advice on the aperture needed. Double star observers of all levels of experience will treasure the level of detail in this guide to these jewels of the night sky.

    • Gives detailed descriptions of double star systems, both northern and southern hemisphere, whereas most books provide only lists and tables
    • Includes extensive maps and finding charts, plotted by Mike Swan, so no additional star atlases are needed
    • Incorporates stellar distance measurements from the recently published Gaia Data Release 2 catalogue, where available
    About the Authors:
    Bob Argyle has observed double stars since 1966. He has been Director of the Webb Deep-Sky Society's Double Star Section since 1970. He edited Observing and Measuring Visual Double Stars (2012) and writes monthly columns on double stars for Astronomy Now and the Webb Society. He is a Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society, a Member of the International Astronomical Union and Editor of Observatory magazine.
    Andrew James has been interested in double stars since the late 1970s. He is a long-term member, and past President, of the Astronomical Society of New South Wales (ASNSW), and formed its Double Star Section in 1979. His interests include the historical backgrounds and works of various discoverers of southern double stars.
    Mike Swan worked for the Ordnance Survey in England. He has extensive experience in computer graphics and uranography and was solely responsible for the Webb Deep-Sky Society Star Atlas. He is currently completing a two part Atlas of Galactic Clusters. In this volume he produced the finder charts, the all-sky charts and orbital plots.
      The Monthly Sky Guide
    by Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (illustrator)
    80 pages, 10th Edition, July 2019
    Level: All

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    Description: A user-friendly companion for stargazers of all ages, this classic beginner's guide describes all the main sights of the night sky. The newly updated book contains a chapter for each month, describing prominent stars, constellations, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. Readers will discover when to watch meteor showers, when eclipses will occur, and how to follow the movements of the four brightest planets (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).

    Most of the sights are visible to the naked eye, and all can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope. Sections on observing the moon and the planets include 50 easy-to-use maps that introduce the skies of the Northern Hemisphere and a comprehensive guide to observing the Moon.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: (9th Ed.) The book is organized by month, and then by type of object you are looking for. Very handy when planning a trip out to see the sights in the night sky.
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      100 Things to See in the Night Sky
    From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing

    by Dean Regas
    224 pages, November 2017
    Level: Beginner

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    Description: A handy field guide for the best stargazing experience whether in your own backyard, camping, or travelling -- including information showing you which planets, constellations, stars, and manmade objects you can see with a telescope, or just your naked eye!

    The night sky is full of amazing things to see -- from shooting stars and constellations to planets and satellites -- but it can be hard to tell what you're seeing, or where to look for the best view. 100 Things to See in the Night Sky gives you a clear picture of what you can see on any given night, either using a small telescope, or just your naked eye.

    Each object is presented as a separate entry, with background information on the makeup, appearance, and history of the object, along with easy-to-follow instructions on how to find it. For astronomy and space fans of all ages, this guide helps you explore the galaxy and see the star -- while keeping your feet on the ground.

    About the Author: Dean Regas has been the astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory since 2000 and the cohost of the syndicated astronomy program Star Gazers since 2010. He is a contributing editor to Sky and Telescope magazine and a contributor to Astronomy magazine, where he won the 2008 "Out-of-this-World" Award for astronomy education. Dean has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio's Science Friday with Ira Flatow, and this year he began an astronomy podcast with Anna Hehman called "Looking Up!"

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: I just started reading this book and it is great. Very informative, easy to read and hard to put down. more»

      100 Things to See in the Southern Night Sky
    From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing

    by Dean Regas
    224 pages, June 2018
    Level: Beginner

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    Description: A handy field guide for the optimum stargazing experience, whether you're travelling, camping, or in your own backyard!

    The night sky is full of amazing things to see, from shooting stars and constellations, to planets and satellites, but it can be hard to tell what you're seeing, or where to look for the best view. 100 Things to See in the Southern Night Sky lets you know what you can expect to see on any given night, whether you're using a small telescope, or just your naked eye.

    100 Things to See in the Southern Night Sky -- especially for those south of the equator -- includes background information on the makeup, appearance, and history of each celestial object, along with easy-to-follow instructions on the best way to catch a glimpse of these cosmic glories. With this helpful guide you'll have the world on a string -- or more precisely, the sky in your hands.

    About the Author: Dean Regas has been the astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory since 2000 and the cohost of the syndicated astronomy program Star Gazers since 2010. He is a contributing editor to Sky and Telescope magazine and a contributor to Astronomy magazine, where he won the 2008 "Out-of-this-World" Award for astronomy education. Dean has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio's Science Friday with Ira Flatow, and this year he began an astronomy podcast with Anna Hehman called "Looking Up!"

    50 Things to see with a Small Telescope   50 Things To See With A Small Telescope
    by John A. Read
    74 pages, 1st Edition, May 2013. Revised in 2016.
    Level: Beginner

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    Description: People love this book! Revised in 2016, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope highlights the must-see objects observed at stargazing events all over the Northern Hemisphere. (Now also available in a Southern Hemisphere Edition.) People of all ages frequently ask, "How did you find that so quickly?" Well, this book will explain just that! The planets in our solar system, the International Space Station, sunspots, birds, nebula, airplanes, and comets are just some of the items that his book will help you find!

    If you have been having difficulties enjoying your small telescope, this book is for you. There is something interesting about pretty much everything in outer space and it is exciting how many pop-culture references are derived from things in the night sky! Viewing the stars referenced in Star Trek, or talking about a character in Harry Potter named after a constellation, is just another way to make stargazing that much more fun!

    I am very excited to share my knowledge of astronomy and I am sure you will enjoy this book for years to come. By working through the 50 items in this book you will achieve a well-rounded understanding of amateur astronomy.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: This book is perfect for somebody with little to no prior knowledge of astronomy. It's written in a short and simple to understand format and is very realistic for the first time telescope user. more»

      50 Targets for the Mid-Sized Telescope
    by John A. Read
    68 pages, March 2017
    Level: Beginner

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    Description: Written as a follow up to 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, containing virtually no overlap in content, 50 Targets for the Mid-Sized Telescope introduces the beginner stargazer to a new assortment of astronomical wonders. With easy to follow star maps, unique for each target, the budding astronomer will explore the universe like never before.

    Each target has been carefully chosen to be observable in telescopes with apertures between four and eight inches. Most objects can be viewed from the suburbs in mildly light polluted conditions, with only a few noted exceptions requiring darker skies. On dark, moonless nights, most targets will be visible in small telescopes and binoculars too.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: Very nice book . I keep it with my telescope. When I use the scope it is very handy and helpful. more»

      2019 Guide to the Night Sky
    A Month-by-month Guide to Exploring the Skies Above North America

    by Storm Dunlop and Wil Tirion
    96 pages, September 2018
    Level: All

    List Price: $14.95
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    Available as a Southern Hemisphere Edition at:

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  • Description: For many years, Firefly Books has published Guide to the Night Sky annuals that cover events to occur the upcoming year in North America's night sky. This year's edition provides all of the guidance, information and data an amateur astronomer needs to view the sky over the course of the coming year and not miss a thing. It is a compact and comprehensive introduction to astronomy and the equipment needed, while sky watchers with more experience can use the book as a calendar reference for all of 2019.

    Using the charts and maps and following the accessible text, sky watchers can enjoy viewing the night sky with nothing more complicated than a pair of binoculars or the naked eye. The maps are centered on latitude 40 degrees North helping backyard astronomers in the United States and Canada see how visible stars change over the year, and ensure that they catch the exciting sky events that occur. In addition to the month-by-month guides, the book includes an introduction to the planets, the moon and the sky, and comprehensive back matter. The book's small and light format makes it the ideal portable reference for backyard viewing.

    The 2019 Guide to the Night Sky is a fabulous introduction for new astronomers and sky watchers who don't want to miss a thing.

    Amazon.com Customer Comment (2018 Edition): With 2018 Guide to the Night Sky, amateur astronomers can view the sky over the course of a year and not miss a thing. It is also a compact and comprehensive introduction to astronomy... The small and light format makes this book the ideal portable reference. more»

      See It with a Small Telescope
    101 Cosmic Wonders including Planets, Moons, Comets, Galaxies, Nebulae, Star Clusters and More

    by Will Kalif
    256 pages, December 2017
    Level: Beginner

    List Price: $16.95
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    Description: It doesn't take an astronomy degree to feel like an astronaut and explore space with a small telescope. See It with a Small Telescope takes the mystery and struggle out of exploring the unknown and discovering new worlds! With hands-on tips and tricks, this book offers a complete guide to unleashing the full power of a small telescope and going beyond the basics.

    Without technical jargon and complicated star charts, this book offers step-by-step instructions and easy-to-use illustrations for finding over 100 celestial objects in the night's sky, including:

  • Saturn's Rings
  • Jupiter's Moons
  • The Orion Nebula
  • The Andromeda Galaxy
  • Polaris Double Star
  • Pegasus Globular Cluster
  • Apollo 11 Site
  • and more...
  • Author's Comments: This book was a work of joy for me. I have loved telescopes and astronomy for my whole life since I received my very first small telescope as a teenager. With this book I hope to share that passion and enthusiasm with you. There are lots of wonderful things to see in the night sky and in this book I show you 101 of them!

    Amazon.com Customer Comment: This should be advertised as a package deal with any smaller telescope, because this book completely changed how I experience my small telescope! more»

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