Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013
By Kadri

Guidebook to the Constellations by Phil Simpson

Rating: 8/10

Guidebook to the Constellations is page-wise a huge book with its more than 800 pages. The reasons for this will become clear if one looks at the books structure.

The book goes through each of the 88 constellations in use and also mentions some obsolete ones as well.  If you go through this book page by page and chapter by chapter you'll know a myth or two about each constellation or a reason for why such a constellation exists.

With each constellation you can see a finding chart of it with some other constellations where there are some deep sky objects marked for easier finding.  This book also gives a lot of information about the various objects that might be of interest while observing the sky with a telescope - the tables include multiple stars, variable stars and star clusters where you can for example look up their magnitudes and spectral classes. But you can also find out about what kind of meteor showers have a radiant in a certain constellation and what comet or asteroid is it related to.

And naturally if you've ever wondered where do such names for stars as Hamal, Albireo and Veag come from, then you can find out these and many more named stars in this book.

In the book there are also some color photographs of various deep sky objects.

Overall it's an excellent handbook to go through while looking for something to observe.

This book gives new information even if you've read similar books before. For example I found out why the constellation Libra is the only constellation in the zodiac that isn't a living being. Originally a lot of people had drawn it as a human figure holding the scales, the human figure belonging to the goddess of justice, Astraea. Later depictions showed Libra as scales being held by a man. But the reason that we don't have a human holding the scales anymore is in the Dark Middle Ages, when all of the astronomical knowledge was held and extended by Muslim astronomers, among whom there were many who believed that the Koran forbids drawing a god or human figure - hence no-one was holding the scales and when astronomical knowledge started on its way back to Europe Libra remained just the scales without anyone holding it.


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