Discover the Night Sky
Submitted: Wednesday, 14th September 2005 by Darren Quinert
I bought the Australian Geographic's Discover the Night Sky mainly for my eleven-year-old daughter for her use with her two scopes and was a good compromise between getting just a planisphere and some technical books.
She has a 60mm Australian Geographic's refractor and a unbranded 3" Newtonian on a EQ tripod of questionable quality, the kit as I will call from hereon comes with a Planisphere, red torch, star maps and a star guide all package in a nice hard covered storage box.
The image shows the books are bound so they can fold back on themselves and have a light plastic coating to help protect them from moisture, I wouldn't want them to get soaked through though.
The booklet on mapping the sky is a very basic and easy to understand has some good information on how the night sky is divided up into the main three sections North Celestial Pole region (NCP), South Celestial Pole region (SCP) and the Celestial Equator, the section that gives a good understanding RA and Dec and their relationship to the Celestial sphere was very easy to follow.
The section on spotting the constellations in the night sky and which ones are easily seen from the northern and southern hemispheres and which can be seen from both at certain times of the years was just as easy to follow with good diagrams and photo quality maps of the area in question, splitting them into NCP, SCP and monthly maps.
The monthly maps section gives you some quick info on what can be seen that month form the northern and southern hemispheres in that particular month and gives a map at the end for both hemispheres ant the end of each month of what constellations can be seen. All the maps a blue in colour that turns a nice black when illuminated with a red light, making it easy to maintain night adaptation while looking at them. See images below.
The second booklet in the pack is The Star Guide gives a good and easy to understand information on the types of stars how the stars move through the sky, it also gives a few short and simple explanation of different types of astronomy i.e. Radio, solar and imaging. There is a simple explanation of the difference between a refractor and reflector telescope and has two good photographic examples of these.
This book also gives some examples of how space probes and robotic craft have been used to expand our knowledge of our planets and stars, it also goes back to the constellations and gives a list of the 88 constellations and their positions in relation to each other in the night sky. There is also a quick look at "star time" (sidereal time) and how it affects what we see at a particular time.
In the section understanding the stars there is a lot of information on types and the difference in size of stars, how they are formed and die. There is a good diagram of the H-R scale and the short rhyme to help you remember their sequence W. O. B. A. F. G. K. M. R. N. S. "Wow! Oh Be A Fine Girl [or Guy] Kiss Me Right Now Sweetie". There is also bit on nebula and star companions, explaining binary and multiples. It gives a great description on how stars start life then can go either way to there deaths as a white dwarf or supernova, with the stages in between and further to become pulsars and even black holes.
The section concerning galaxies and the universe has a good explanation on the Milky Way and its relative position in the big picture of space, there is information on how we catalogue galaxies i.e. (S) Spirals, (SB) Barred-Spirals which are then divided into there three categories a, b and c, there are a lot more to the grading but I will let you read that.
The last section in the book is dedicated to our little part of the universe giving some brilliant images of the planets and their satellites, I am not going to go into to much depth here as I couldn't do this section justice writing about it.
The torch and planisphere are the last two items in this kit to bee looked at the touch is simple one where you rotate the whole globe and lens to turn it on, I found it a bit to bright for my liking but if it give people new to astronomy the incentive to use a red light while observing the it's brightness wont be a big problem.
The Planisphere is quiet good it has all the major information on it that is needed by a beginner, there are a few DSO on it but not enough to keep a seasoned observer busy the instructions are on the back of it which helps to instruct the beginner on how to use it . I use the planisphere as a quick guide when I an out with the bino's or the little scopes and can't justify taking the laptop out with me.
Well that's all I have to say on this product I hope this will help some of the new people to astronomy there is a cheap all in one package that wont brake the bank, under $50 and will keep the kids interested in astronomy for a long time, and the books are great for those space assignments where the kids need to know the facts on the planets.
Reference for this review was
Australian Geographic's Discover the Night Sky