The Etna Astros Astronomy Club
Please use our link when considering a book---any book---from Amazon!

Turn Left at Orion

This is a great book for the beginner!  What I like best is that it sets realistic expectations for what you will see in the telescope. Books often describe a particular target and then show a dramatic full-color picture taken by The Hubble---when you get to the eyepiece you only see a small fuzzy smear! This book actually shows you what that small smear is going to look like! It's a very nice binocular guide too.  I'd give it 5 stars if it had more targets. (Available through most book sellers and
---Chris Reich

Finder Chart Books


These books are really superb!  They are nicely laminated and hold up very well in the worst of night-time conditions.  There is very little text so don't expect much information about the targets.  But, each page is an easy to follow chart marked with the Telrad bulls-eye for easy finding of the desired target.  There's a master list at the front of each book by Object Reference with an informative summary. the books lay flat and are a pleasure to use.  The Messier Objects come in 2 volumes. These couldn't be better for what they are meant to be.  One thing I would mention. The Bright Telescope Objects book is mostly Messier Objects.  If you want to complete the Messier List, get the 2 volume Messier Set and skip the Bright Telescope Objects book.  Or, if your interest is casual, get only the Bright Telescope Objects book.  Overlooked objects is very interesting! I bought mine---the entire series---from Scope Stuff. I like to use Scope Stuff because their prices include shipping and they give great service.
---Chris Reich

Bright Star Atlas

Wil Tirion's LAMINATED Bright Star Atlas is 32 pages and includes 10 maps, each 9"x12".  All 9,096 stars of the entire Yale Bright Star Catalog have been plotted along with over 600 deep sky objects, including all the Messier Objects, which are of particular interest to binocular and small telescope observers.  Data on all celestial objects is presented in tabular form opposite each map.  The Milky Way is shaded in green.  Great for beginners as well as a handy reference for the more advanced amateur.  Just the right size to be carried with you in your vehicle, suitcase, briefcase or backpack. I use these charts nearly every day!  A pleasure to use!  Be sure to get the laminated edition.
---Chris Reich

Seeing in the Dark

Seeing in the Dark is author Timothy Ferris' love letter to the skies and a stirring report on the revolution now sweeping amateur astronomy, in which backyard stargazers linked globally by the Internet are exploring deep space and making discoveries worthy of the professionals.
This book will really stir your soul's interest in astronomy.  It's a collection of stories about amateur astronomers of the first order and how they approach their passion---the night sky. Just fascinating! I highly recommend this book. Great reading.
---Chris Reich

Astronomy Hacks

by Robert Bruce Thompson, Barbara Fritchman Thompson
I really like this book and enjoy picking it up and just jumping to a "Hack" and reading it.  It's nice because it's like a book of tips---covering a wide range of topics---that do not have to be read in order.  I learn something new every time I pick this book up!  And it's easy reading...AND, the publisher has offered our club 30% discount coupons for this book!!!!  If you decide to get this book, and I highly recommend you do, contact Chris for a coupon!
Here's what the staff at Amazon had to say:
Do you relish viewing and identifying celestial objects? Whether you're a first timer or an advanced hobbyist, you will find Astronomy Hacks makes a brilliant cosmic companion. Why use the traditional approach in admiring and studying the stars when you can turn computers, handheld devices, and telescopes into star gazing tools for an out-of-this-world experience?
This handy field guide covers the basics of observing, and what you need to know about tweaking, tuning, adjusting, and tricking out a 'scope. Expect priceless tips and tools for using a Dobsonian Telescope, the large-aperture telescope you can inexpensively build in your garage. Get advice on protocols involved with using electronics including in dark places without ruining the party.
Astronomy Hacks begins the space exploration by getting you set up with the right equipment for observing and admiring the stars in an urban setting. Along for the trip are first rate tips for making most of observations. The hacks show you how to:
  • Dark-Adapt Your Notebook Computer
  • Choose the Best Binocular
  • Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
  • Upgrade Your Optical Finder
  • Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment 
The O'Reilly Hacks series has reclaimed the term "hacking" to mean innovating, unearthing, and creating shortcuts, gizmos, and gears. With these hacks, you don't dream it-you do it--and Astronomy Hacks brings space dreams to life. The book is essential for anyone who wants to get the most out of an evening under the stars and have memorable celestial adventures.
If you want a  second opinion, Alan Eddy has this book as well.
---Chris Reich

Objects in the HEAVENS

At first I thought, "no, I don't need another little field guide".  But then I considered the awesome responsibility a club President has to stay informed and decided I had better buy one after about the release of this new, third edition.
I liked this guide from the first glance. This is really a "keeper" in that it is neither too basic nor too complicated for most beginners.  Actually, it's a very handy field book for an avid astronomer.  There is a lot of really great beginner type information in the first few pages---nice explanation of telescope types and lots of observing tips.  The charts, while similar to the Brent Watson type finder charts, have a lot more detail---but not so much detail to discourage a novice. 
Objects are listed by constellation which makes the book particularly "user friendly" and includes a plethora of interesting things to see.  Here's what Peter says about his book:
OITHv3 is a deep-sky fieldbook/notebook for amateur astronomers. Containing descriptions and mapped locations of 676 celestial objects of all types viewable with small scopes and binoculars, OITHv3 is designed to encourage those who have not spent much time searching for deep space objects by making the information readily available for use at the scope.
"A small, handy observing guide."
Object listings are magnitude 10 or brighter, so they're all visible with a 6" reflector. 136 entries are specially highlighted for use with average binoculars. Generous space is provided for personal observation comments. Data has been assembled from 33 astronomical catalogs and includes 189 other-than-Messier or NGC objects of all types. It's an interactive reference book which brings together just the facts, and then some regardless from which catalog or category type they may be, to be a complete, useful and entertaining viewing companion.
OITH provides many answers to: What ALL can I see and where is it? by providing only those objects which are potentially viewable from the Northern Hemisphere, formatted to simplify finding these visual treats with 63 detailed constellation and seasonal maps. Also featured are modern locations (2000 or better), available descriptions, extensive cross-referencing, common names list and historic observational comments from T.W.Webb. The book's compact size makes it ideal for camping and hiking.
116 pages, spiral-bound soft cover, A5/digest size: 5.5" x 8.5";
676 objects to magnitude 10; 17 additional objects to mag-10.5
189 non-Messier or NGC objects, 28 of which are binocular-class;
186 "city" objects to magnitude 7 are highlighted;
144 double stars and multiple stars;
136 binocular-class objects with separate symbol;
   70 maps: constellational, seasonal, seasonal insets;
   61 observable northern constellations, arranged alphabetically;
   33 astronomy catalogs are referenced;
   19 photographs by Naoyuki Kurita;
plus stories that combine multiple constellations for learning large chunks of the sky;
plus encyclopedic data on planets, stars, meteors;
plus common names list;  
plus modern Messier list of 110 objects with Marathon constellation order;
plus complete object number cross-reference and mapping and more.
Added 12-31-06:
The more I use this book, the better I like it. Some of the pocket guides you tend to out grow. This one always will lead you to something interesting. It's a "must have"!
---Chris Reich
New Atlas of the Moon (Spiral-bound)
Things change so much from one observation session to the next, it's nice to have more than one atlas of the moon. And I just happen to love a good atlas so I concluded this "new" atlas was a necessary addition to my collection of astronomy books.
My first impression was, "Wow! This is nice!" But as I got deeper and looked closer, I sank with disappointment. The copy I received ( was flawed. Some of the neat overlay pages were inserted upside down! And, some of the really beautiful color plates were so poorly printed that the ink literally had "flecked" off the page. The book was printed in Indonesia! Come on, we can't print a book? Or are these guys just so cheap they had to print this book in Indonesia?! At a discounted price of $34.99 plus shipping, the print quality ought to be better. After a brief conversation with Amazon I decided to give it a second try. They are exchanging my copy for a fresh one.  So, ok, let's assume the pages will all be inserted correctly and the ink will stay on the page of my replacement book. This is still no "atlas". It's a nice book and many of the pictures are stunning but the book seriously lacks detail one would expect from a $35 atlas.  For example, they have beautiful images of each day of a moon phase. There are clear overlays with the labels for these pages---a nice touch as it's often easier to see features without the labels. BUT, they only include overlays for every other day!
I'd say this is like buying a star atlas which goes to 6th magnitude stars. It's pretty and will be helpful but Rukl will remain my primary atlas. And, if the replacement is not of better quality, it will go back to Amazon.
Update: The replacement arrived from Amazon and it's flawless but still a 2 star book. I don't like the paucity of lables. The telescopically mirrored view is annoying. I prefer to make the corrections in my head depending on the equipment I am using for a particular session. It's still a "pretty" book but I would not recommend it because of the cost.
Update 2: I took this book out yesterday to work on my 2007 lunar goal of learning to identify 100 objects on the moon without the aide of reference maps. To my surprise, Proclus is not shown on any of the maps and it is not listed in the index! Perhaps a later edition will include more detail.
Save your money. You can do better than this book.
*    /*****   Chris Reich

Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas

The last thing I needed was another atlas. I have several---including all the popular and expensive ones! I also have the basic and inexpensive. I have finder chart books and finder chart cards. I have field guides and beautiful presentation atlases. I have lots of software too---planetarium modeling software and charting software. Did I need this new pocket atlas? No! But I must confess that I enjoy maps and charts so this was a necessary addition to my collection. Keep that in mind: I have a built-in liking for charts so it would take a lot for me not to like a chart book!
First impression. I like the size, the feel of the paper---though not laminated it should be durable---and the design which allows the book to lay flat. Why aren't all atlases spriral bound?! I like the look of the charts---very familiar as it's pretty much a chopped up copy of my Sky Atlas 2000---
Now it gets dicey. The publishers say in the forward that they didn't want pages too small to be useful. I think they missed. In my opinion, the areas covered are annoyingly small. Had a lunar atlas format been followed---i.e., show me a large area divided into perhaps 8 charts, with the overview giving some detail, great. This is is missing. Or at least lacking. There are overview pages but they are not particularly useful unless you know exactly what you are are looking at. And I suppose that is the heart of the matter. If you know where M51 is but need to refine your position a bit by checking a reference, this pocket guide will help you--it certainly is not lacking in detail for a small atlas. But if you are trying to find M51, even with the right chart opened before you, you may have difficulty placing that piece of sky in relationship to what you see over your head.
OK. So what's better? For a pocket guide, I greatly prefer "Objects in the Heavens" by Peter Birrin. His pocket guide is far more logically designed and contains much, much more information. I personally have purchased many of Peter's guides and given them as gifts to budding astronomers and each time they just seemed to know what to do with his book. I doubt that will be the experience I have when I give away the extra copy of this pocket guide.
Will I keep mine? Sure. I can make use of it. Do I recommend it? Only if you're a collector of atlases...Try Objects in the Heavens instead. Two stars? It's tough. An experienced astronomer would find this book of more use than a beginner would. I may use it in the field for reference but I won't use it for planning. Maybe it's a three star atlas. If it shows wear after a few months I'll give it another star!
Update: After using it in the field to locate objects I was having trouble finding, I've decided to add a star. If you know what and and approximately where you are looking for a given object, this pocket altlas is quite useful.
Another Update: After using this pocket Altlas to locate a couple of very difficult targets, I'm now very pleased with this atlas. I really did not like the small format initially but now find this guide to be an indepsensable field guide. I added a star. But it's not for beginners or I'd give it 5 stars.
****  /*****  Chris Reich