Saturday, April 29, 2006

Remedial Astronomy

I've got something really cool in my back yard... THE UNIVERSE! Despite all the time I spend "playing in space" with Orbiter on my computer, I sometimes forget that real, actual space is just a few hundred kilometers on up to several billion light years, right above my back deck! Pretty amazing, huh?

I know a a fair amount about physics, planetary motion, the properties of stars and galaxies. All of that book and software astronomy and space flight stuff. But I must confess that when it comes to actually knowing my way around the sky, I'm pretty dim. I know the most common markers - Orion and the Big Dipper (an asterism rather than a constellation, BTW), and I can recognize the planets when I know (from the web) when and where to look. But beyond that, I really know very little observational astronomy.

So when I stumbled on The Backyard Stargazer by Pat Price, I bought it, even though I already have a few amateur astronomy books. This 167 page book is really basic, and sad to say, I need that! It's full of good explanations, diagrams, rules of thumb (2.5°) that I sort of knew, and even a table of pronunciations so I finally know how to say Bo├Âtes (bo-OH-teez). It has sections on binoculars and telescopes but focuses more on naked-eye astronomy, which is what I really need to improve. On clear nights this spring and summer, I plan to spend some time in the back yard, getting to know my universe better with the help of this book.

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