Burnham’s Celestial Handbook

Burnham’s Celestial Handbook is an astronomy book that has been something I have heard about over and over again ever since I have really been into astronomy. I was always dubious as to their value to my astronomy as they were old (1978), not available new that I could tell (if they were really good, wouldn’t they still be in print?) and pretty large (2138 pages total).

Burnham's Celestial Handbook covers After getting a set in good shape from a used book store, for more than the original new price I might add, I have spent some time looking through them and actually using them. What I have found is that they can indeed be very useful.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook spines If nothing else, Burnham’s Celestial Handbook will make you learn. To use them you need to read the first 101 pages which tell you how to use the books. These pages alone are worth the price of admission as they discuss topics such as sidereal time, celestial coordinates, the classification of stars and galaxies, the H-R diagram of stellar luminosities, spectral classes, and of course, the nomenclature used throughout the book. Even if you are familiar with most of this the review is quite nice. After getting antiquated with the basics he starts systematically and alphabetically going through all the constellations detailing all the objects within each one. The pages are filled with pictures, charts, diagrams and his “descriptive notes”.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook star chart A great example is his notes for Alpha in Canes Venatici: “ALPHA (12 Canum) Mag 2.89 (slightly variable); Spectrum A0p or B9.5p. Position 12537n3835. Name- COR CAROLI, “the heart of Charles”. The popular story is that the star was so named by Halley in honor of King Charles II of England. According to R.H.Allen, “This was done at the suggestion of the court physician Sir Charles Scarborough, who said that it had shone with special brilliance on the eve of the King’s retun to London, May 29, 1660.” Of course the text goes on quite a bit just about this star but this excerpt should give you the general idea of the wealth of not just scientific information but the story behind some of it as well.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook sample pages One could spend their lifetime simply following in the footsteps of Burnham as laid out in Burnham’s Celestial Handbook. How he completed such a fantastic work is beyond me. That may be why such a project is a rarity. If you have not read at least some of this set I urge you to do so. If you have a copy and no longer ready it, I would ask you to share it with others. Make sure that your astronomy club’s library has a copy.

You can often find copies of this wonderful astronomy book on Amazon.

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Getting Started: Visual Astronomy released

Getting Started: Visual Astronomy is quite a departure for me as most of you know I am primarily an astrophotographer and spend comparably very little time visually observing. When you are imaging for up to ten hours at a stretch however that still leaves a lot of time for visual observing, so compared to many others around me I do a lot of visual observing. It is all relative. There are a lot of fantastic books on general astronomy and observational astronomy. The one thing that I could never find however is a book that got right to the point on how to visually observe that was easily portable. This led me to do the research and write my own.

Getting Started: Visual Astronomy Getting Started: Visual Astronomy is a standard sized book just like my others that gets right to the heart of the matter. It is designed to get you up and observing quickly. It answers all the basic questions and some of the more advanced ones as well making sure you know how to use the equipment you have, and what equipment you may be interested in purchasing. From naked eye observations, through binoculars and all the way to the different types of large telescopes, you will find all the information you need to get out under the stars and begin your journey. It even includes a few biographies of important people such as the father of modern observational astronomy, Galileo Galilei, so that you get a feel for the history of observational astronomy.

You can get more information, read the table of contents and introduction and more at the book’s home page here:


Look forĀ Getting Started: Visual Astronomy in both print and Kindle editions from Amazon. The first person to review the book on Amazon had this to say: “This book will help you get started in Astronomy and answers every question you have plus plenty more you didn’t know you had. From buying your first telescope to how to read star maps this book offers a step by step guide on everything. Written in a well structured format that makes the information easy to digest. Well worth the sticker price for the amount of information contained. I highly recommend.”

I hope you enjoy Getting Started: Visual Astronomy!

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