Turn Left At Orion
by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis


Book Review by Joe Orman

[Originally published in the newsletter of the East Valley Astronomy Club, July 2000]

As any telescope owner knows, the path to satisfying observing can be filled with potholes, detours and wrong turns. Sometimes that first step is the hardest -- getting the telescope out of the closet and setting it up. Then, pointing it in the right direction can be frustrating. And once we do find our way to a deep-sky object, we are often disappointed that it doesn't really look like a Hubble Space Telescope photo! This book, subtitled A Hundred Night Sky Objects To See In A Small Telescope -- And How To Find Them is intended to guide us past these hazards. For the purposes of this book, a small telescope is defined as anything with an aperture of 6 to 10 centimeters (2.4 to 4 inches).

The authors recommend frequent, easy journeys -- keeping our telescope handy and doing as much observing from our backyard as we can. Next, they lead us through the basics of setting up a telescope. Then, we are ready to depart on our tour of the night sky. First, we are given some pointers on observing the moon and planets. But the bulk of this guidebook is devoted to the authors' favorite deep-sky objects, organized in four sections -- one for each season. A simple roadmap of each season's sky helps us get our bearings. Our path to each object starts with a simple star-hop from a bright star or constellation (as the title implies), then a finder-scope view lets us know we're in the right neighborhood. Finally, a sketch of the object as it should appear in our eyepiece confirms that we've arrived at our destination, and a brief description tells us what we're looking at.

Each deep-sky attraction is rated by the authors on a scale of one to four. We may not agree with all the ratings (the open clusters M6 and M7 in Scorpius are rated only a 3, while the double star Albireo in Cygnus earns the full four!), but overall they are useful shortcuts to the night sky's major attractions. And those of us who attended Jeff Medkeff's talk at the May EVAC meeting will wonder if the authors are steering us wrong with the following statement: "For small telescopes, five or ten minutes is plenty of time to cool things off, even if it's cold out; less time is needed in the summer." But on the whole, the guidance given here is practical in the best sense -- simple advice that we not only can use but will use! This book can turn a stargazing session into a delightful stroll through the sky ... one any owner of a small telescope will want to take again and again.

Revised: June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Joe Orman
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