101 Objects to Spot in the Night Sky by Robin Scagell

A fun and practical guide to the stars and planets

Published 2014

Click on the cover to buy this book through Amazon.co.uk

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I aimed this book at young astronomers, but old astronomers will probably enjoy it as well! I wanted to make it like a sort of 'I-Spy' book, where you can go out and look for things and tick them off as you see them, so for each object there is a box where you can fill in the date seen and get points. But of course you don't have to do that if you don't want to.

It is suitable for northern hemisphere observers only, as I reasoned that there was no point in including objects that you could only spot by taking a trip to the southern hemisphere. Everything in the book can be observed by most people in Europe, the US and most other northern-hemisphere countries. The only exceptions are the Northern Lights (aurorae) and noctilucent clouds, which you are unlikely to see from the Mediterranean and the southern US. But there are also two objects, the star clusters M6 and M7, which are too low to be seen from the same places where the Northern Lights are commonplace but are easily seen from more southerly areas.

Apart from those, all the objects are visible to anyone with reasonable skies using either the naked eye, binoculars or sometimes a small telescope. No fewer than 67 of them can be seen with the naked eye, while only five really require a small telescope. Actually, there are many more than 101 objects, because while describing the main ones there are often other things in the same area which I mention.

For each object I give charts showing where to look, and I give details of when you can observe it. For the bright planets I just give the months (up to 2023) when they can best be seen, because they move fairly quickly. For the fainter planets and comets I suggest websites where you can either find the info or download an app. I think the book should be an excellent campanion for anyone with one of those phone apps that shows you details in the sky as you hold it up. What they don't usually tell you is which are the best objects to try and look for yourself.

The book starts with an outline of Things you Need to Know – all about constellations, why stars have such odd names, the difference between a star and a planet, all that sort of stuff that you probably know anyway but might need a bit of brushing up on. There is information on buying and using binoculars and telescopes, and practical tips for observing.

The main part of the book then describes the 101 Objects themselves, starting with Solar System objects – the Moon, planets, other bodies such as comets, and eclipses and the Northern Lights.

Then I look at objects visible in winter, spring, summer and autumn in turn. Finally there are some star maps for those without an app or computer.

My brief sky guide for this month (on the Society for Popular Astronomy Young Stargazers' site)

    Site updated 29 April 2016

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