The Observer's Year: 366 Nights of the Universe
by Patrick Moore
(part of the Practical Astronomy Series edited by Patrick Moore)


Book Review by Joe Orman

[Originally published in the newsletter of the East Valley Astronomy Club, January 2001]

This book is a calendrical trip through the sky with a revered icon of British astronomy, Patrick Moore. Each day is given its own short essay; many of these take the reader on a star-hop through a constellation that is best observed at that time of year. Among the treasures we are guided to are nebulae and galaxies, double and variable stars; these include Messier objects and selections from Moore's complementary Caldwell Catalog (his full name being Patrick Caldwell-Moore). Sprinkled throughout the book are non-seasonal objects such as the moon and planets, and side notes on significant space-exploration anniversaries and upcoming sky events through the year 2003.

Rich in mythology, history, and scientific detail, this book makes good armchair reading as well as a useful observing guide. The eloquence of Moore's writing is testimony to the high standards of the British educational system.

I do have a few small quibbles. Not all of the objects discussed in the text are shown on the accompanying star maps. And there are scattered typos; one table is labeled The Southern Triangle instead of The Summer Triangle, which is an especially unfortunate error since Moore himself claims to have coined the latter term! But the most troubling inaccuracy cannot be attributed to editorial oversight, since Moore repeats it several times: "Remember never to look directly at the Sun through any telescope or binoculars, even with the addition of a dark filter. Irreversible damage to the eye is certain to result. The only sensible way to look at sunspots is by the method of projection." This unnecessarily alarmist warning is very outdated, given the safe and reasonably-priced filters that are readily available today.

But these minor points do not detract from a handsome and valuable book. Moore's relationship with the sky is obviously that of an old and familiar friend, and his book is an enjoyable reminder that the universe holds more than enough wonders to fill an entire year.

Revised: June 6, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Joe Orman
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