Sunday, October 17, 2010
The Sunday Salon and a Little Star Gazing
Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Grab a cup of Joe and pull up a chair. It's that time of the week to relax and chat about what bookish things we've been doing this week! For the past few Saturday nights I've been star gazing. Have you ever looked up in the sky and wondered about the stars and planets above? At the star gazing party I went to there were many people with their different kinds of telescopes sharing their love of the night sky, and sharing their knowledge with us "amateur" star gazers. What I find amazing to think about is that these are the same stars and planets that people have seen since before Galileo's time. And speaking of Galileo, in 1609 Galileo observed the moons of Jupiter and saw that this supported heliocentrism. (Heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is at the center of the Universe). I learned about Jupiter and it's four moons these past few weekends, and learned how Jupiter is the closest it's been to the earth since 1963. You won't get another opportunity to see Jupiter so close again until 2022. So, get out your binoculars and take a peek because you'll actually be able to now. What has all this got to do with reading?! Well, there are some wonderful books about the stars & planets... It's a great way to spend some time with the kids outdoors... and it's fun! (Could also be romantic!)
Here's some books to satisfy your curiosity...
Discover the Stars by Richard Barry... For everyone who has looked up at the stars on a clear night and longed to know more about them, here is the perfect introduction and guide to discovering the stars. Discover the Stars leads you on a tour of all the stars and constellations visible with the naked eye and introduces you to deep-sky objects that can be seen with binoculars or a simple telescope. The tour is conducted by the editor of Astronomy magazine, Richard Berry, whose two-color, computer-plotted sky maps and clear instructions make stargazing fun and productive from your first night out. The heart of Discover the Stars is two sections of big, beautiful sky maps and charts. The first section features twelve maps that show the entire sky overhead as it appears during each month of the year. These outline all the constellations visible anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and the accompanying text reveals the rich ancient mythology that surrounds the star groups. The second section is made up of twenty-three star charts that depict smaller regions of the sky in great detail. These charts give the names of key stars and lead you to fascinating features such as stars with unusual colors, double stars, variable stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Separate chapters cover basics, such as how the stars move through the sky, how to find your way around the moon and the planets, making an astronomer's flashlight, and choosing and using a telescope -- all in terms that are easy to grasp and remember.
I found Discovering the Stars to be a great introduction to the night sky. It's basic, well written and easy to understand. It also is helping me easily identify the stars above!
Nightwatch, A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson... John Peters of the New York Public Library writes, This long-overdue update of a classic handbook for amateur astronomers combines a text both meaty and hard to put down with a great array of charts, boxes, tables, and dazzling full-color photos of the sky. Aiming this offering at new but serious hobbyists, Dickinson guides readers on a tour of the universe visible from any dark backyard, providing frank evaluations of many telescope models; specific advice for photographers; and a simple system for locating stars, constellations, nebulae, and other intriguing sights. Convenient charts track upcoming eclipses and the locations of the five planets visible to the naked eye (both through the year 2010). The author closes with lists of supplementary resources, including books, software, Web sites, and conventions. Dickinson's contagious enthusiasm and vast expertise earn this a place in reference and circulating collections of any size.
This is a big gorgeous book, with a wealth of information. Not as basic as Discovering the Stars, but well written and still a great book for the beginner.
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Jay Consolmagno... From the Publisher, A guidebook for beginning amateur astronomers, Turn Left at Orion provides all the information you need to observe the Moon, the planets and a whole host of celestial objects. Large format diagrams show these objects exactly as they appear in a small telescope and for each object there is information on the current state of our astronomical knowledge. This new edition contains a chapter describing spectacular deep sky objects visible from the southern hemisphere, and tips on observing the upcoming transits of Venus. It also includes a discussion of Dobsonian telescopes, with hints on using personal computers and the internet as aids for planning an observing session. Unlike many guides to the night sky, this book is specifically written for observers using small telescopes. Clear and easy-to-use, this fascinating book will appeal to skywatchers of all ages and backgrounds. No previous knowledge of astronomy is needed.
Another great big (oversized) book with a wealth of information for the beginner.
Feel like a little fiction with your star gazing? How about...
Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel... Inspired by her long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter, which Sobel has translated into English for the first time, Galileo's Daughter is a book of great originality and power, a biography unlike any ever written on Galileo. Sobel, the author of the bestseller Longitude, brings Galileo to life as never before—boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family, especially to his eldest daughter. The voices of Galileo and his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, echo down the centuries through letters and writings, which Sobel masterfully weaves into her narrative, building toward the crescendo of history's most dramatic collision between science and religion. In the process, she illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici grand dukes became Galileo's patrons, when the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, and when one man fought, through his trial and betrayal by his former friend, Pope Urban VIII, to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed thorough his telescope.
Dava Sobel has a reputation for her wonderful writings about science and making these subjects come to life. Besides Galileo's Daughter, she has written Longitude, about the man who solved the problem that eluded both Newton and Galileo, and without which many ships were lost at sea, and The Planets, which explores the links of mythology, astrology, science fiction, music and poetry to the exploration of the planets.
Speaking of star gazing, and keeping with the theme of the stars, Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye, (I just reviewed this great book this past week!) has a wonderful passage about how Olaf, captain of the Rag and father, use to sail by night using the stars above for his compass. Check out my review for Safe from the Sea if you missed it this week, AND enter the GIVEAWAY for Safe from the Sea. I can't say enough good things about this book, at a little under 250 pages, it's a gem of a novel! (P.S. Peter Geye wrote a fantastic guest post Thursday too. Check it out HERE if you missed it!)
There are some other fantastic giveaways going on Chick with Books now too...
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris (ending Oct. 23rd), Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat by Vicki Myron (ending Oct.23rd) ,and Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicki Myron (ending Oct.23rd).
I hope I've peeked your interest today! When we look up into the night sky, we may take for granted what's up there, but these books should remind us of the wonders above. We might have to take our nose out of a book to see the planets and stars, but we can put it right back in a book about those planets and stars! Have you been a star gazer? Have you looked up and spotted something wonderful? Share you're night sky here! And share it with someone else too!