Reviewed by Emma Johnston
The author Raman Prinja is currently Professor of Astrophysics at University College London and has written several successful general-interest books on astronomy and is keen to bring the subject of astronomy to a wider audience.
This book is designed to be a beginner’s guide to observing the night sky, aimed at stargazers from age 7 and up. Each page is illustrated with clear diagrams and star charts making star spotting easy, but it is also has some interesting facts, great for kids! The book itself comes with a handy zip-up plastic cover to help protect it on those cold nights spent outdoors!
The introduction starts off with some night sky essentials: explaining the motion of stars and planets and why they seem to move from one night to the next. Explaining what equipment is needed to watch the night comfortably and safely, why some stars appear brighter or coloured and the differences between stars, galaxies and other objects in the sky.
This is followed by a really informative section entitled “star hopping’. With the help of the book my daughter and I found our way around several of the constellations and traced out the shapes of some the monsters and heroes in the sky. We even discovered that the Southern Cross is so famous that it appears on the national flags of New Zealand and Australia! My daughter found the level of information more than adequate, needing a little help with some of the explanations, but was completely enthralled throughout. The book goes onto explain a little about the planets, how they formed, their orbits and the best times to spot them in the night sky.
There is a section dedicated to the moon, detailing how and when it was formed, why it appears to change shape over a month and how to observe and identify the craters on the surface. Our favourite section was the last, entitled ‘Unusual Sights’. We learned about eclipses and how to watch them safely, comets and lastly meteorite showers. It just so happens that the weekend that we reviewed this book coincided with the Geminid meteor shower. An annual event in December when you can see up to 120 meteor flashes every hour. We wrapped up warm and ventured out into the very cold but exceptionally clear night to see if we could spot it. A spectacular evening of meteor spotting followed. My daughter was utterly amazed. We have been reading this book almost nightly and it has really sparked her interest. It is a great introduction into star gazing and is set at the right level to capture my daughters thirst for knowledge but not too complicated that she became confused or lost interest.
I would recommend this to all budding night sky watchers out there. This book concentrates on naked eye objects so exacts a great level of satisfaction when (with the help of this guide) you manage to find and spot them!
Suitable age: 7-11 years
Available to buy from Amazon here.