Celestial Sampler

60 Small-Scope tours for Starlit Nights

by Sue French
Sky Pulishing, 2005



Before I start this review, hands up everyone who reads Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders column in Sky & Telescope religiously every month? Okay, you can sit at the back of the class, because you already own this book. For those who don't read Sky & Telescope every month, allow me to elaborate.

Sue's column is a description of a variety of targets, from double and variable stars to galaxies and nebulae, that can be found in the sky that month, usually within on constellation or at least a limited range of sky. Her writing is clear, vivid and concise, with a nice balance of technical terminology and subjective impression. She describes what she sees with scopes of different sizes, and for many of the objects (particularly open clusters) she describes what they resemble to her, and asks us - what does it look like to us? With that she sucks us in, and we go willingly.

This book, as the subtitle suggests, consists of 60 of her columns from the magazine, organized by season, so the book can be used as an observing guide as well as an armchair astronomer's delight. It comes complete with an introduction to observing and seasonal sky charts, which is a nice touch.

My one issue with this book - and depending on whether you are browsing the book for for pleasure or using it as an observing guide - may be perceived as either minor or fairly significant. The individual articles were intended to stand alone. So when grouped into seasons, the collection is somewhat lopsided. For example, Cassiopea features prominently in November, December and January. Now, dear old Cass has lots to enjoy, but there are plenty of other constellations in the sky. So if you buy this book to enjoy the writing and the pictures, it is everything you anticipate. If you are looking for an observing guide, this book may be a bit narrow in scope, and slightly disjointed. What I would really like to see is the content from multiple articles recombined, so all the Cassiopea material is together, the Perseus sights are grouped together, the Taurus targets are grouped together, and so on. Now THAT would make a killer observing guide!

Everything considered, this book is a good read, has a great collection of images and charts, is a good quality publication and the price is right.

Celestial Sampler is available through the Budget Astronomer Bookstore.

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