This time of year can be one of the best times for stargazers to observe the night sky. The air has less moisture, making the skies seem clearer, and the nights are still long.
If you are new to exploring the night sky, or just want more information about the vastness we call space, here are a few books to guide you on your adventure.
In February, the nights are long and cold, giving you ample time to sneak outside and do some observing. Jupiter is visible after sunset in the western horizon and stays up with us for part of the night. The Worlds of Galileo: The Inside Story of NASA’s Mission to Jupiter by Michael Hanlon tells the harrowing tale of the Galileo spacecraft. The author vividly describes Galileo’s journey to the planetary giant and what it discovered upon arrival. The book is filled with wonderful facts and images about the largest planet in our solar system.
The celestial constellation of Orion dominates the winter sky and can easily be seen during February. To learn more about this constellation and others, National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky is a great resource. It gives detailed descriptions on more than 50 star groupings and includes diagrams and information about their mythological history.
As Jupiter sets on the month of March, Mercury takes its place. You can view this small red planet early in the evening sky during the latter half of the month. To view planets in the night sky, you don’t need to have a telescope or complicated apparatus. Stargazing with Binoculars by Robin Scagell and David Frydman tells how amateur stargazers can use binoculars to see both planets and other celestial objects.
Constellations are great to view with a pair of binoculars. Both Gemini and Cancer usher in the spring sky and can be seen in March. One of the best books I have found that gives a detailed overview of the celestial year is The Night Sky Month by Month by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow. It has diagrams of constellations that can be seen each month in both the northern and southern hemispheres. With this book and a pair of binoculars, it is easy to interpret our star-covered sky.
When April arrives, the wonders of the spring sky are well underway. Saturn and Venus have been present since the winter months and continue to populate the night. Saturn: Exploring the Mystery of the Ringed Planet by Nicole Mortillaro gives us a detailed look at the sixth planet orbiting our sun. The book is filled with images and descriptions of the great, gaseous giant and its beautiful rings. Mortillaro also introduces the reader to some of the many moons Saturn has in its orbit.
Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear constellation, towers above us in the north during April. Within this constellation is housed the ever-popular star pattern the Big Dipper. The Concise Atlas of the Stars by Serge Brunier is the perfect book to learn about 15 major star clusters, including the Big Dipper. Each page is dedicated to one constellation, with descriptions of the best time to view it and the prominent celestial objects located within it.
Stargazing is an exciting and ever-changing hobby. As the months move throughout the year, the night sky follows suit and reveals new and wondrous sights. As Plate said: “Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.”
A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Anna Chabada is a librarian at Terry Fox Library in Port Coquitlam.