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|The Night Sky Observer's Guide|
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Amateur astronomers today are exceptionally fortunate to be living
in an era when high quality, and very large optics are so affordable.
In the first half of the 20th century the telescope deluxe for the
amateur was the 6-inch refractor. However, such telescopes were so
expensive that very few amateurs could afford them: the majority of
stargazers had to contend with instruments in the 60mm range. Consequently,
most observing guides published during that time emphasized double
and multiple stars, with honorable mention for variable stars and
planetary nebulae, objects which do well in long focal length refractors.
Webb's 1858 Celestial Objects of Common Telescopes and Olcott's
1936 Field Book of the Skies were not superseded for so many
decades simply because the average amateur instrument did not dramatically
improve during the century after Webb. By the 1950's the mass-produced
or home-made 6-inch parabolic mirror brought medium-sized optics into
the price range of the average amateur, and with it the emission nebulae,
open clusters, and galaxies that had been seen only as amorphous blobs
- if seen at all - in small refractors. The 1948 Skalnate Pleso
Atlas of the Heavens had already displaced the classic Norton's
Star Atlas as the frontline sky-chart for amateurs, but the observing
guides badly needed rewriting. However, not until the 1970's and Burnham's
Celestial Handbook was there an observing guide worthy of the
6-inch Newtonian reflector, or the more expensive, but increasingly
popular, 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. By the early 1980's
another revolution in amateur optics was underway thanks to the inexpensive
and easily constructed mounting for large aperture Newtonian reflectors
invented by John Dobson. With these big "light buckets" one can see
score of emission nebulae, hundreds of star clusters, and thousands
of galaxies, and with details visible in virtually all of them.
But once again observing literature has failed to keep pace with optics. The purpose of the Night Sky Observer's Guide is to close this rewidened gap by providing the owner of a medium or large aperture telescope with some idea of what to look for in such instruments - both what object can be seen, and what details may be seen within these objects. The Night Sky Observer's Guide endeavors to assist the observer in the act of observing - in truly seeing what there is to see in each of the objects described in these pages - because the first step in astronomy is to actually look with attention at what is in the night sky. It began in 1987 when George Kepple and Glen Sanner, founded the Observer's Guide, a bi-monthly magazine that set out to describe, with their readers as active participants, what could be seen with telescopes 6-inches and larger from mid-northern latitudes. Unlike an ordinary magazine it would have a finite life because each issue was devoted to one - or occasionally several smaller constellations. When completed in 1992 32 issues had reviewed 64 constellations. The object descriptions in The Night Sky Observer's Guide derive from those in the original Observer's Guide, but the editors have reviewed and edited each so it will conform to a set style. In those instances where inconsistencies arose the editors reobserved the object and rewrote the original Observer's Guide description.The Night Sky Observer's Guide also includes many photographs and maps that did not appear in the magazine. Though both the Observer's Guide and now the Night Sky Observer's Guide were aimed at amateurs especially interested in observing galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters, neither magazine nor these volumes have neglected double and variable stars. Data tables for doubles and variables within a constellation are provided near each chapter's beginning, and these stars are labeled on maps and finder charts. Moreover, the most famous or visually impressive double and variables are given written descriptions similar to those for other deep-sky objects. Splitting doubles and plotting variable star light curves are not nearly as popular with amateurs today as they were thirty or forty years ago so these objects are not emphasized in the volumes. Nevertheless, double stars in particular offer the observer many fine, and even spectacular sights in the eyepiece.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
George Robert Kepple and Glen Sanner have been life long amateur astronomers. George, until his retirement, worked in the steel industry as a grinding machine operator. Glen is a pharmacist. Both authors are now retired and have moved from Pennsylvania to the clear, dark desert skies of southern Arizona where they continue to pursue their hobby of astronomy. For volume 3 we recruited Ian Cooper from New Zealand and Jenni Kay from Australia, both seasoned observers. Jenni is the southern correspond for the Web Society.
Volume 3 covers nearly 2,400 objects:
Note to northern hemisphere observers:
Although volume 3 is an ideal companion for your trip to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or South America, observers around the world living at 33 degrees north latitude or below may view over 530 deep-sky objects and over 310 double and variable stars covered in volume 3. This includes observers in the USA residing in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.
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