Turn Left at Orion
Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis
Published by Cambridge University Press - ISBN 0-521-48211-9

I'd seen this book mentioned numerous times in the sci.astro.amateur newsgroup, and so when I'd gotten a gift certificate to a large chain bookstore, I was happy to see that they had a copy. Once home with it, I sat down and read it cover to cover.

I can honestly say that this is the single best book I have ever seen about astronomy and telescope use. It's what I'd hoped Garfinkle's Star-Hopping was going to be.

The concept of the book is simple: answer the question "now that I've got my first telescope, what can I see with it?"

The first 40 pages deal with some basic astronomical concepts and pieces on the moon and planets. Though brief, these cover their subjects very well. We then get to the heart of the book - one hundred objects that can be seen with small telescopes listed by season.

Each object is given a rating of one to five telescopes, has a listing for the best sky conditions for seeing the and a recommendation for the best magnification to use for viewing the object. This is followed by a map of where the object can be found in the sky, a chart of what the view will be in a typical finderscope, and a drawing of what you will likely see in the eyepiece. These illustrations accompany clearly written paragraphs titled Where to Look, In the Finderscope, In the Telescope, Comments and What You're Looking at. There may be an additional paragraph called In the Neighborhood. Each of these paragraphs gives exactly the information you'd expect from its title.

The real joy of this book is its straightforward style. It doesn't assume that you have a PhD in Astronomy, nor does it assume that you're a complete idiot. It is written in that rarest of commodities, clear, precise English. It has excellent illustrations that make it easy to starhop your way to the object in question, and usually gives just the right amount of information about the object.

Because this book assumes you're using a small (60-100mm) telescope, it does not raise the observer's expectations to an unrealistic level (as I believe Star-Hopping does). If anything, I find that the expectations on what will be seen are conservative, so that when I focus on one of these objects, I see more than I had expected to.

At the back of the book is a chapter called How to Run a Telescope. These may be the best seven pages I've ever seen on telescopes! They're a lot more informative than most manuals included with telescopes! Basic information such as the different types of telescopes is augmented by indispensible information such as cooling down your telescope. This is followed by a useful glossary, tables of the objects described and the index.

I think that everyone who owns an ETX should own a copy of this book! It's the perfect starting point for an evening's observation with the ETX, no matter what your level of expertise.

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