10 Best Astronomy Books | April 2017

10 Best Astronomy Books | April 2017
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We spent 33 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. You won't know if you are inspiring an astronaut or a cosmologist if you give someone one of these astronomy books, but you can be certain that you will have provided a thought-provoking and awe-inspiring gift. Our selection includes editions specifically written to appeal to youngsters through to more advanced students, and all of them contain stunning images. Skip to the best astronomy book on Amazon.
Dickinson's Nightwatch is widely-recognized as one of the most popular stargazing guides available, having sold upwards of 600,000 copies of its 3 prior editions. It incorporates instructions for using the latest digital camera technology for astronomical photography.
  • has future solar and lunar eclipse dates
  • telescope purchasing guide is useful
  • spiral binding isn't very durable
Brand Firefly Books
Model 155407147X
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
Good for kids aged 10 and up, the National Geographic Kids Space Encyclopedia delivers 5 easy-to-follow and highly-illustrated thematic articles that cover a broad range of topics, including our own solar system, dark energy, near-earth objects, and even solar storms.
  • pages are heavy and glossy
  • good source for adult reading, too
  • the cutaway images are too small
Brand National Geographic Chi
Model pending
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
The DK Space Visual encyclopedia features never-before-seen photographs, charts, and stories by NASA astronauts, making this book a good visual overview for elementary schoolers. Images from sky maps to spacecrafts have also been sharply reproduced on black backgrounds.
  • price is affordable
  • fonts are easy to read
  • needs additional resource lists
Brand DK Publishing
Model pending
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
Universe The Definitive Visual Guide is chock-full of beautiful images of the cosmos from our own solar system to the farthest reaches of space. This encyclopedia includes detailed information on cosmology, Earth's motion, modern telescopes, and astrophotography.
  • contains a comprehensive star atlas
  • encyclopedia has 528 pages
  • it's a bit heavy and bulky
Brand Rees, Martin (EDT)
Model pending
Weight 5.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
Hubble's Universe is regarded as a breathtaking portfolio selection of 300 of this telescope's most visually-stunning photographs from outer space, making it an excellent visual science reference for both students and backyard stargazers alike.
  • makes a great coffee table book
  • the text is clear and focused
  • the book's jacket cover is rather flimsy
Brand Firefly Books
Model pending
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
In Galaxy: Mapping the Cosmos, author James Geach uses the last 100 years of scientific discovery to track the development of our understanding of the light coming from stars in alien galaxies and what this means for the future interpretation of extragalactic astronomy.
  • book discusses how galaxies form/evolve
  • theoretical framework and simulations
  • it can be a difficult read for kids
Brand Geach, James
Model pending
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
With more than 3 decades of experience writing about astronomy, David Eicher answers some of the biggest questions about our universe in The New Cosmos, which include entertaining narratives about how our sun will die, the Big Bang Theory, and the end of life on Earth.
  • accessible to both amateurs and experts
  • includes maps and explanatory diagrams
  • excessive detail gets tedious at times
Brand The New Cosmos
Model pending
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
Including more than 200 new high-quality images from recent space missions and observatories, The Cosmos is an excellent astronomical teaching tool for non-science majors. Its redesigned pages include text that reads as a series of stories to keep students fully engaged.
  • includes integrated discussion questions
  • supports math and qualitative approaches
  • contains a whole history of the field
Brand Brand: Cambridge Univer
Model pending
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0
Setting Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle apart from its competition is Michael Benson's emphasis on the correlation between geological time and astronomical distance, taking you on a journey through time using the concept of light to illustrate the vastness of the universe.
  • images are very high quality
  • author is also a journalist filmmaker
  • informative and imaginative text
Brand Brand: Harry N. Abrams
Model pending
Weight 4.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
In their 8th edition of Astronomy Today, both Eric Chaisson and Steve McMillan describe their excitement about the universe of stars to students as it relates to encouraging the use of critical thinking skills, visualization, and cutting-edge scientific discovery.
  • updated with the most recent theories
  • improved pedagogical features
  • chapter organization is easy to follow
Brand Chaisson, Eric/ McMilla
Model pending
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

One of Many, Many Revolutions

Before Galileo Galilei caught wind of the first telescope, a Dutch invention, and decided to build his own, astronomy, the "law of the stars," was limited to only the celestial bodies that could be perceived with the naked eye. The Earth was believed to be at the center of the solar system and planetary motion was calculated using Babylonian, Greek, and Hellenistic mathematics. Retrograde motions were observed and the geocentric model of the solar system was established.

Nicolaus Copernicus disagreed with the long-standing geocentric model. Using mathematics, Copernicus theorized that the Earth is in fact not at the center of the solar system, the Sun is. Unfortunately, the telescope had yet to be invented and Copernicus was unable to prove his theories correct. He published his findings in his most famous book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, and died having never seen the true fruits of his labors.

Three years after Copernicus' death, Tycho Brahe was born. He read Copernicus' book, but only partially accepted it. While Copernicus asserted that all of the planets, including Earth, revolve around the Sun, Brahe insisted that the Sun revolves around the Earth, despite agreeing that all of the other planets revolve around the Sun. With near-unlimited funds at his disposal and a golden prosthetic nose to highlight the size of his ego, Brahe built an enormous observatory, Uraniborg, the first of its kind, and embarked on a quest to prove his predecessor wrong.

Brahe made daily observations and kept an obsessively detailed record, so detailed that he eventually required an assistant, Johannes Kepler, to help keep track of the mountain of data he was rapidly collecting.

Thanks to Brahe's data, and being the brilliant star that he was, Kepler soon formulated his three laws of planetary motion, each of which supported Brahe's theory that the planets revolve around the Sun while the Sun revolves around the Earth. Alas, a mere eight years before the invention of the telescope would inevitably prove him wrong, Brahe died, his ego intact.

Fascinated by Brahe's data, Kepler's laws, and his very own, newly crafted telescope, Galileo made an amazing observation that no naked eye had ever made or ever could. He discovered that Venus has phases, just like the Moon, a phenomenon that Copernicus' heliocentric model had long since accounted for. He published his findings in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems and was promptly suspected of heresy by the Roman Inquisition.

What happened after, you will no doubt learn about in whichever astronomy book you choose to buy.

The Beauty of Astronomy Books

Quite possibly the simplest and most effortless pastime known to humankind, stargazing has occupied people of all ages, across all continents, for millennia. From shooting stars to evil omens, changes in the night sky have both fascinated and disturbed kings and peasants alike. To this day, the cosmos continues to be the inspiration behind countless theories, stories, dreams, and careers.

Whether it's identifying constellations, peering through a telescope at the Great Red Spot of Jupiter or the craters on the Moon, taking time-lapse photographs of meteor showers, or listening to signals at a radio array, astronomy has something for everyone. All one needs to know is what to look or listen for, where to look or listen, and when.

What makes the cosmos so interesting, though, is not the mere act of observing it, but observing it while knowing how it works and who was the first to discover each object or phenomenon. Who was the first to explain the rings of Saturn? Who was the first to explain why Betelgeuse, the shoulder of Orion, twinkles?

The beauty of astronomy books lies not in their glossy, color photographs, but rather in their ability to place each comet, each moon, each mission to Mars within the context of a grander scheme, a plan to explore and explain the Universe.

Choosing the Best of the Best

When choosing an astronomy book that best suits your needs, it's important to keep in mind any astronomy-based hobbies you might be interested in developing.

An astronomy book designed for kids is not going to offer detailed advice on how to get started with astrophotography, which lenses you will need, how to mount your camera for time-lapse photography, or how to attach a camera to a telescope. Likewise, a stargazing guide about astrophotography may not contain the information you need to better understand the goals of NASA or the ESA.

For those interested in an astronomy book that provides a more general overview, it's good to keep in mind your prior knowledge. An astronomy textbook designed to keep university students intrigued for an entire semester could very well leave a younger student feeling overwhelmed, like "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam," to use Carl Sagan's words.

Whether it's astronauts' anecdotes, brief histories of giants, or star charts showing the precise locations of constellations throughout the year, every astronomy book is bound to feature aspects of astronomy that will surely pique your interest, but no single book will feature all of them.

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Last updated on April 27 2017 by multiple members of the ezvid wiki editorial staff

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