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Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,127 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Revised Fourth Edition: updated for use through 2025.

The first three editions of NightWatch sold more than 600,000 copies, making it the top-selling stargazing guide in the world for the last 20 years. The key feature of this classic title is the section of star charts that are cherished by backyard astronomers everywhere. Each new edition has outsold the previous one beca
Spiral-bound, Fourth Edition, 192 pages
Published September 12th 2009 by Firefly Books (first published March 1st 1983)
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Joel Date relevance is applicable mainly for the planetary appearance and eclipse tables which go out to 2018, which means that section will only be releva…moreDate relevance is applicable mainly for the planetary appearance and eclipse tables which go out to 2018, which means that section will only be relevant for another three years. I imagine they will come out with another edition once this one is expired, so you may want to wait a couple of years before buying. In addition, the section about equipment is still relevant, as the basics haven't changed that much since this book was published, only the prices.

That being said, most of the information relating to the above topics are available on the internet: you will probably want to use a planetarium software (I use Stellarium on my desktop and Star Chart on my iPhone - both free) which also shows the planets, and read up on equipment reviews on before buying anything. The basic idea of the book - how to find your way around the sky going from the most familiar star groups to the less familiar, and understanding how those relate to our place in the universe, is still as relevant as always.(less)

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May 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Apologies for this brief and unprofessional review.
I bought this book as someone who is just starting out in astronomy. I found it to be an excellent read for someone like me. It explains everything from buying a telescope to the origin of the universe. It is bound in a ring binder style which makes it easy to use the many sky charts within. It has plenty of high quality full color photographs, courtesy of the Hubble space telescope.
There are many facts and figures in this book especially conce
Jeremiah Peter
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a self-proclaimed nerd, I love all things space-related. I was recently given an 8-inch Dobsonian Telescope as a gift, along with this book. Until now, my understanding of space and the night sky seemed to have little in common. Nightwatch did a beautiful job of bringing it all together for me. It also breaks down the mechanics of telescopes and provides you with the basic tools and knowledge that are required in astronomy in a way that is simple to understand and enjoyable. If it weren’t for ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received this book as a Christmas with a telescope. I've been reading it off & on and thought it was time to review the book, but not put it up. It is a book to read through time and time again; whether for the start charts or other information.

My edition (4th) was published in 2015 and is updated for use through 2025.
Larry Cunningham
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a superb introduction to all things astronomical. I recently purchased my first "serious" telescope, and I thought a refresher course in the basics of observational astronomy might be in order. I've done my share of reading about the subject over the years, so I knew the basic concepts. This book crystallized my thinking and helped to prepare me for more serious involvement with the hobby. Highly recommended for anyone getting started or needing more up to date information about astronom ...more
Adam Chawansky
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book for my trip to Africa in the hope that it would augment my appreciation and understanding of the night sky. To that end, Terence Dickinson really delivered. Starting with a description of the size and shape of the cosmos (and our humble place within it) and leading up to a tutorial on constellations and what to look for, this book has it all. There are also sections on the moon, planets, photography, and binocular/telescope advice. By the end of my trip I was able to explai ...more
Chris Mertes
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the must-have book for amateur astronomers, or anyone who would like to develop a deeper appreciation of the wonders of the night sky.

I like this book to be displayed on my coffee table, and in this manner, I have had the opportunity to encourage friends and neighbors to learn more about astronomy. Open this book to any page and learn, or remember something interesting about astronomy.

Currently this book is on loan to a dear, old friend. I hope she returns it after she instills a curiosi
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book has everything you need to get started and then stick with stargazing, and is entertaining and quite readable to boot. Not only will it give you a nice introduction to basic astronomy, it will also give very practical advice on equipment - both for beginners as well as for more experienced stargazers. It is also filled with great star charts, and instructions on how to use has a really nice lay-flat binding so that you can actually take it outside with you when you're ready ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, very practical and informative, excellent book to get you started looking at the night sky! Finding the constellation Scorpius was the best thing that has happened to me so far after reading this book (though soon I will be looking to identify specific craters on the moon in my next telescope night!) 5/5 would definitely recommend looking at the stars anytime you find yourself outside at nighttime :)
Michael Lawrence
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Space nerds and Astronomy lovers
Recommended to Michael by: A fellow space nerd
Being an Astronomy Lover I own a fair share of sky-gazer books. Many of them obviously cover similar aspects of the viewable universe. This one I found to be very helpful at helping a typical night watcher identify what exactly he/she is looking at in the heavens.

A great book for just the amazing photographs of the universe but a much better book for an astronomy fan or even for someone who may need a little help getting motivated to start taking a peek at the AMAZING UNIVERSE that we are trave
David S. T.
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I've been interested in Astronomy as long as I can remember, I always wanted to telescope but never got around to getting one. This year I finally broke down and bought a scope and this book. This book was pretty interesting as a beginners book, it covers some basic astronomy and information about some observable objects (like some nebula and the planets), getting a telescope and how to use some sky charts. ...more
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: done
I used this book to look up what kind of telescope to buy. I read this book and it gave more information on what kind of telescope to buy than the internet did. This book tells you the advantages and disadvantages about each kind of telescope. The most recommended telescope in there was the Dobsonian. These telescopes can give you great views of the planets but can also look farther out like a galaxy. I would never had gotten a good telescope without this book.
Tim Andersen
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tim by: Fraser Cain
Shelves: astronomy
NightWatch is an excellent book that introduces the scales of distance and size in a way that is... well it is still incomprehensible, but the book is written very well. Lot of illustrations make this book fun to flip through as well as reading the chapters. There is a great chapter on telescopes and equipment. I highly recommend buying this book before you make a telescope purchase.
Michael Mangold
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
A beautiful book chock full of useful information for the budding astronomer. The problem here is that new media have overwhelmingly surpassed print for the amateur hobbyist. Online forums, space-focussed blogs, iPhone and iPad apps are more current, useful and interactive than print publishing, especially critical for scientific and technological hobbies.
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007
I was given a telescope as a gift, but had no idea where to point it. This book really puts it all together for the novice. It makes you want to go out and look for stuff.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The best book to start with if you are interested in really star gazing. Lots of good tips and practical information on what's up in the sky above us. Written in a very readable style. ...more
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best, most practical books I could recommend for the budding or amateur astronomer's bookshelf! You will find yourself returning to this gem of a resource again and again. ...more
Kevin Cox
Excellent! An essential beginner's guide to astronomy. ...more
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
What can I say? World changing.
George Eordanedes-Grammatekou
probably the ultimate guide to the cosmos....especially i loved the section with the 11 steps....prfect!
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
absolutely the best book for amateur astronomers
Dec 20, 2011 marked it as to-read
I'm thinking of having this be required reading for my older kids (they love it when I do that). We are about to join the astronomy club and I want them to have a good background first. ...more
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The absolute best starting point for anyone wanting to know more about the universe and how to get the best start to viewing it.

Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Excellent introduction to backyard astronomy and viewing the night sky. Moon & constellations.
Lance Taylor
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great beginner book to the Night Sky! A must own book.
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The ultimate guide for beginner star gazers! It's my go to reference book! ...more
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-science
great info on telescope/binocular purchasing
seasonal star charts
Bob Mimiaga
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: astronomy
This was undoubtedly one of the best books on astronomy I've read. It was a great primer on our solar system, Milky Way and galaxies, including clusters, nebula, variable stars and other objects in the cosmos. Dickinson was able to present the amateur astronomer with a detailed yet understandable explanation of the scientific basics for the systems in the heavens. What really comes through in the pages of this book is Dickinson's passion for astronomy, which has become a life-long career and lov ...more
Jeff Stephenson
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is a reason that so many experienced amateur astronomers recommend this book. This book is a great introduction to backyard astronomy. The book should be almost considered essential reading for someone who is thinking about buying a first telescope before the purchase is made. This book gives a good overview of what to expect to see in the sky, the different types of telescopes available and when to use/obtain each type, star charts for all seasons, an introduction to astrophotography, and ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful guide for star gazing. I tried picking up star gazing skills here and there but ofcourse life happened. Then somehow one day sitting in my backyard enchanted by full moon it suddenly hit me there is so much to watch from backyard and i dont need to wait for big bend national park trip. ( dark site).

This book was exactly what i needed to get started. Now those sky maps dont look intimidating. The celestial sphere doesn’t look complicated. Also several misunderstood phenomenon became c
Robert Swanson
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Actually a good book, a good collection of materials.
So why 3-stars? Why would anyone purchase this book anymore with the internet providing all the same materials, updated. The basic introductory materials have been rehashed in astronomy books over and over, the charts on viewing are available on-line for any given time and date. This was a good collection of materials 10 years ago. But to pay $35 for what can be had for free and more tuned to my needs on-line is a waste. Too bad for the author
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Terence Dickinson is a prolific science writer specializing in astronomy. More than one million copies of his 14 books are in print in five languages. His best-known book, NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe, is widely regarded as the essential guidebook for beginning stargazers. NightWatch, first published in 1983, now has over 600,000 copies in print, making it the top-selling ...more

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