Plot or Premise
This is the annual observer’s guide published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
What I Liked
Each year, the Observer’s Guide is produced and sold to amateur and professional astronomers across North America, and those astronomers vary considerably in their capacity and interests. It’s hard to serve any “one group”, but as I am at the intro stage to the hobby, I’ll review from that perspective. Some highlights include:
- List of observatories, star parties, planetaria (pp 11-14);
- Observable satellites of the planets (pp 25-26);
- Observing artificial satellites (p 38);
- Overview of filters (pp 64-67);
- Deep-sky observing hints by Alan Dyer (pp 85-87);
- Lunar observing (pp 158-161);
- The brightest stars (pp 274-283, 285); and,
- The deep sky (pp 307-337).
Of course, it also has the key reference materials:
- The Moon (pp 148-157);
- The Sun (pp 184-193);
- Dwarf and minor planets (pp 241-251); and,
- Double and multiple stars (pp 291-294, 296-297).
And it has specific highlights for the year:
- The Sky month-by-month (pp 94-121);
- Times of sunrise and sunset for 2019 (pp 205-207);
- 2019 transit of Mercury (pp 139-143);
- The planets in 2019 (pp 211-229); and,
- Comets in 2019 (p 264).
I’m happy too that some of the errors in URLs published last year have been corrected.
What I Didn’t Like
I still find the pages on telescope exit pupils (pp 50-53) to be incredibly dense. I keep meaning to find a more basic set of explanations online of it, but I never seem to get around to it. I would add the next section on magnification and contrast in deep sky observing (pp 54-57) as equally confusing. I have to believe that dense text can somehow be explained more easily to the newbie with some basic guidelines for common scopes and ages of users. Equally, I’m not thrilled with the astrophotography section (pp 91-93) which still lists the “big cameras” as best, in the same way that many photography websites ten years ago suggested that professionals would never go digital. There is an emerging market for people sharing prime shots they take with their smartphones — souvenir quality shots, not NASA shots — and it is almost completely ignored by the section (grudgingly it says “even cell phones”). I also find that the economic bias of last year towards higher-end binoculars and scopes continues. But those issues are mostly me just being picky — they aren’t enough to reduce the overall rating.
I received a copy of the guide as part of my annual membership in RASC.
The Bottom Line
Excellent edition for the year.