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Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope - And How to Find Them

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A superb guidebook described in Bookwatch as 'the home astronomer's "bible"', Turn Left at Orion provides all the information beginning amateur astronomers need to observe the Moon, the planets and a whole host of celestial objects. Large format diagrams show these objects exactly as they appear in a small telescope and for each object there is information on the current state of our astronomical knowledge. Revised and updated, this new edition contains a chapter with ten new spreads describing spectacular deep sky objects visible from the southern hemisphere, and tips on observing the upcoming transits of Venus. It also discusses Dobsonian telescopes, with hints on using personal computers and the Internet as aids for planning an observing session. Also new to this edition are redrawn "Guidepost" figures at the beginning of each season chapter that allow readers to visualize a three-dimensional view of the sky's dome; redesigned seasonal object layouts that provide more space for the naked-eye charts; a new spread on double stars near Bo�tes has been added to Spring, replacing the "Shrinking Double" spread; and a unique "When and Where to Look" table has been added to the last page, among other new features. Unlike many guides to the night sky, this book is specifically written for observers using small telescopes. Clear and easy to use, this fascinating book will appeal to skywatchers of all ages and backgrounds. No previous knowledge of astronomy is needed.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Guy Consolmagno

28 books36 followers
American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory.

B.A. and M.A. at MIT, Ph.D. at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, all in planetary science. After postdoctoral research and teaching at Harvard College Observatory and MIT, in 1983 he joined the US Peace Corps to serve in Kenya for two years, teaching astronomy and physics. After his return he took a position as Assistant Professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

In 1989 he entered the Society of Jesus, and took vows as a brother in 1991. On entry into the order, he was assigned as an astronomer to the Vatican Observatory, where he also serves as curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection, positions he has held since then. In addition to his continuing professional work in planetary science, he has also studied philosophy and theology. (source: Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for Duane Dunkerson.
17 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2013
Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis, Third Edition, Cambridge University Press.

In the US in the 1960s there then flared a national discussion filled with concern that Americans were becoming spectators as opposed to participants. They were not participating in sports, that was the touchstone of the matter. Huge football stadiums would fill on Saturdays for the watchers of the collegiate struggles. There were thousands and thousands across the land who only watched and did not do more. The poor devils could only idly observe and see what was before them. It wasn't as real as the doing of the sport; the leisure activity was commended for the values it instilled.

In Turn Left at Orion, Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis are of the opinion that amateur astronomy is not made up of GOTO telescopes and CCD apparatus. With GOTO scopes, a computer finds the celestial object for you by knowing where the object is and by how much to move the telescope until the object is seen in the eyepiece of the scope. You are a low-level operator, you sit in the stands, and the computer plays the game. No virtues are instilled. A CCD (charged coupled device) digitizes an image of the astronomical beauty and you, again as an operator, see what it sees for you. A machine in each case is doing it for you.

There is no CCD in Turn Left at Orion. The telescope you own, up to four inches in aperture, is guided by your hands and you see your way about the marvels of the night sky via the finderscope attached to your telescope proper. In this book the authors show you how to know where to find and where to look for whatever you can find within the range of the light gathering capabilities of your scope as you direct it to your eye. There are lots of astronomical objects to see, say, two thousand readily available out there per night but 1,900 could very well be boring. So what's to see as you go for doubles, galaxies, variables, nebulae, clusters, the Moon, and the planets? Follow their directions for the sky, finderscope, and in your eyepiece. There is also timely information about each class of objects and many single objects have extended accounts of their history and appearance. Current astronomical knowledge is brought in as appropriate.

You see the Moon, planets, and others as they appear in a small telescope of 50-70 mm or 2 to 3 inches in diameter. In its Contents - How Do You Get To Albireo?, Moon, Planets, Seasonal Stellar Objects, The Southern Hemisphere, How to Run a Telescope, Where Do You Go From Here?- are to be found certainly most of what you need to know to get started and to keep going in amateur astronomy as a hobby.

Realize, at the outset, that the big glossies of featured astronomical goodies are not pinned up in the night sky. The authors of this book attempt to convince you of the reality of what you will see. Within the range of your scope are visual pleasures best appreciated as you learn your way around the nightly heavens. The key to unlocking what is above is in the finding them to see them. To find, to see, to experience, and to know what you sense is not a representation but the real thing. The seeing is in the finding, to find it is to see it.

You don't need an ideal sky to engage in this love of the night sky. The perfect night with the star-crammed firmament is usually only read about. The authors mostly observed with a three-inch scope 15 miles from Manhattan. You will be outdoors observing in an environment not scripted or canned for you. It is a hobby, don't forget. Don't torture yourself; don't burden yourself with the seriousness of your intent. It isn't necessary to find useful work to do with your telescope. If it is work, is someone going to pay you?

You can on this job, if you insist in getting into such a state, be as emotional as you want. "No detector matches the human eye in capturing subtlety and emotion. No computer guider can give you the serendipity of the things seen on the way to the things sought."

Once seen, whatever it is, are you done? How about a different filter? A different altitude or attitude? Different eyepieces, different magnification, collimation, new seasons, new hours of the night, differing temperature, the mud of spring or the frost of autumn, and a differing time of your life? You ultimately see with your mind. How have you changed? What you see will then change. The secrets of the starry night change too.

The change will not be beyond all recognition. It is, after all, still you. And your scope. Especially that finderscope attached to the main scope. The authors relate a matter concerning aligning that finderscope - " A telescope with a misaligned finderscope is a creation of the devil, designed to infuriate and humiliate and drive stargazers back indoors to watch re-runs on TV." For you, as an amateur astronomer, there are no reruns in what you do.

But there is the Moon, aren't lunar reruns a dime a dozen? Always there, well sometimes not for long, it is absent from the sky occasionally. It can be high or low. You see different regions of it at differing times. Well, yes, not similar enough of a view until about 20 years have past. It was once the most tempting object in the sky. Now we have been there. What's the point of seeing the fascinating detail in and around the crater named Clavius? Most of us see the waxing, not the waning Moon. You will see lunar features that are three miles across. Easily seen are the highlands, giant mountains, basins, "seas", rays, and magma oceans. Once amateurs in the thousands knew the names and appearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of the characteristic Moon, the lunar museum. Stars go behind the Moon and the Moon's mountains can alternately hide and reveal the star as it appears to graze the edge of the Moon. Large parts of the Moon, in a smaller scope, will be seen to have a smooth, flat look. This is a more pleasant appearance than that found in large telescopes, which give you a grainy, grating and smeary view.

The first views you will have of the planets, conditioned as we are to the necessities of NASA's photos as fulfilling a need to impress the taxpayers, are going to be disappointing. You will need patience, perceptive skill, your highest magnification at the scope, and a night conductive to good seeing. Be prepared to at first see a tiny trembling blob of light. Any expectation of awesome fine detail to be seen on a planet's surface is greatly diminished. It is there, some important features can be see. It takes training, training takes time. Venus - its phases. Mars - tiny with dark patches and polar caps. Jupiter - zones, belts, festoons, the Great Red Spot, and Jup's moons. Saturn - its rings, Cassini's division in those rings, and Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

The moons of either Jupiter or Saturn look like stars and stars aplenty you can see. The finest stellar objects for smaller scopes are groups of stars. The group may be no more than a double - two stars in orbit about one another or it may be a cluster of stars from a dozen to a few hundred stars or it may be hundreds of thousands of stars in a compact sphere. Here and there a galaxy can be found but they are no more than wisps of lines except for the great galaxy in Andromeda. Most of these occupants of the sunless sky require finding.

The authors' directions are not difficult to understand, for example, to find a triple star named Beta Monocerotis in the constellation called Monoceros - "Find Orion, high above the southern horizon, and find the very bright red star, Betelgeuse...Then, from Orion, turn left and follow the stars in Orion's belt which point to the southeast towards a dazzling blue star, Sirius...A little less than halfway between Sirius and Betelgeuse you'll find two faint stars, lying in an east-west line. Aim for the one to the east, the one away from Orion. That's Beta Monocerotis."

Getting to Beta is not difficult. Other celestial objects that the authors have selected for you are somewhat more difficult to locate and some are easier to find. Currently in amateur astronomy, there is a divide that is getting larger with every new computer-driven scope that comes on the market. They do the finding for you. These scopes are usually referred to as GOTOs. To GO-TO or not to GO-TO? This matter was mentioned earlier but it does bear amplification as the entire nature of amateur astronomy is changing.

The authors state that small telescopes and amateur astronomy are not for GOTOs. Use of GOTOs is placing you in the power of the machine. It is a machine doing it for you or there is little for you to do. Little for you to learn about the night sky. Where's the fun if you are caught in the quick fix of celestial positions, a repetitious whirring of motors takes the scope wherever and then you look. You didn't move the scope. You didn't go with it. You didn't find your way. No challenge, no accomplishment, and no knowledge gained. It is more a game. How many can you take a glance at tonight?

So you are at a remove from the stars. Less patient are you to wait for the stars to reveal themselves to you,to see faintly what you had not seen before. Once it was that the lumpy patch of light becomes pretty, pleasing, charming. Tiny, grainy clouds of stars or hazy fields of light can become an awesome immensity of grandeur and delicacy. Superb powdery clusters of stars can be seen in bold sweeps across rich star zones. The colors of the stars can be red, yellow, blue, cream, gray, bronze, gold, tawny, lilac, green, and white. The glittering remote glorious regions contain a lifetime of visual pleasantries.

Don't despair, slow down. Be calm. Learn what is your best and do it. Amateur astronomy can also teach you something about yourself. It is something no machine can so inform you. And you have it. This "it" will be a composite of many observations, of many observing conditions.

Someday the scopes can be talked to and they will go where wanted to find what can be seen. But, by then, why bother to look? Let the scope tell you what can be seen and push out a super DVD, color corrected, blown up to gigantic screen size as you sit and impatiently for the scope to get on with it, there are those other 55 tonight and you have only 19 minutes more. The scope knows the sky conditions, the temp, does autofocus, knows what you had for dinner, and it knows if your toenails need to be trimmed.

A small telescope, no toenails involved, can show one million stars. There are thousands of double stars for a small telescope. Some people never go much further than the Moon. The Cosmos sparks wonder and some feel the need for powerful gadgets as an equalizer, as a hurry-up offense. The Cosmos need not put you on the defensive, you need not run at it. Why does it need to be a contest, a game like football? Into the stands you go or can you realize how important you are with the small telescope? Spectator or in the field of endeavors?

The authors of this book provide an entry for you into amateur astronomy. They counsel you to not forget that it is to be fun. You can explore without knowledge beforehand over one hundred objects that they have selected. What you do is to find them. Finding them informs you and sustains you for a long time. Mostly, it can be fun. Heed their counsel.
Profile Image for Linda.
428 reviews28 followers
June 3, 2019
In general I'm not a fan of books like this. They tend to not do a good job at what they try to teach but this one is an exception. I think it will help make the night sky much more accessible to newcomers to amateur astronomy.

There are sketches to show what you can expect to see in the telescope and good directions on how to find the things you want to see.

I happened to read a pdf version checked out of the library and I don't recommend that format for this book. Instead I'd go for a print copy or an ePub or kindle formatted version. Reading the pdf, even on a large iPad screen was fairly onerous.
Profile Image for Aprilleigh.
817 reviews38 followers
June 15, 2021
I really like the way this one is laid out. It’s spiral bound so it lays flat on my observing table, and the pages are oversized so you can easily see the details in the red light used by astronomers during observing sessions. The authors also stay away from the RA/Dec notation for locations that can be so confusing to beginners (in the introduction one of the authors explains his first observing session under the guidance of the other author and that they are trying to reproduce the less confusing way he was shown at that time). Many book aimed at beginners try to explain how to use RA/Dec (right angle and declination), and I agree you will eventually need to learn this, but I really appreciate that the goal of this book is to get you excited about what you can find first. And honestly, unless you have a go-to telescope (or at least an equatorial mount with setting circles) the star-hopping technique this book uses will be significantly more useful to the novice.

The book covers some basic information about telescopes and some of the things you should consider while using them, including a nice section about the two major types of reflecting telescopes, and an even better section that explains some basic math for determining resolution, magnification, focal ration, and field of view. The importance of those numbers is briefly explained, as well as the easiest ways to determine them for your particular set-up.

This is followed by a beautiful section covering the moon and some of the best features to observe at different points in the lunar cycle. He also lists the lunar eclipses (all of them, not just total eclipses) through 2025 and where they will be viewable. This is followed by another section on the planets (the tables on when and where to look are invaluable), before getting into the meat of the book. Each of the following six chapters covers one section of the night sky - the northern stars, the southern stars, and the stars visible from the northern hemisphere during each season. Each section stars with a two-page planisphere-type view that includes only the very brightest stars. The pages that follow cover some of the most interesting objects in that region, including key stars (singles, doubles, variables), nebulae, and clusters. Detailed directions are given for finding each using the star-hopping technique, and the diagrams show what it should look like in both a small telescope and a decent-sized Dobsonian telescope, as well as some finder scope diagrams. Any helpful filters are clearly indicated, and a ranking (from 1-5) for how challenging that object is for a Dobsonian, a small telescope, or a binocular.

This is a solid book for a new observer. It captures all the excitement of a first experience with what’s out there with very little of the technical details that intimidate so many. At the same time, even if you’re a little nerdy and don’t mind the details it’s not at all dumbed down. The book seems to assume that you know very little, but are willing to learn the basics before moving on. I see this as a must-own book, both for its outstanding introduction to all the possibilities, and as a reference tool when introducing others to the hobby.
5 reviews4 followers
April 8, 2016
Such an awesome book for amateur astronomers and stargazers ! Highly recommended. One of the best sky guides ever !
Profile Image for Stephen.
30 reviews3 followers
July 25, 2019
If one were giving an autodidact a telescope, they should also give them this book. There is only a chapter's worth of true reading -- maybe 15% of the book -- but much of that is the information that unfortunately didn't come with the telescope itself. The remainder of the book has very practical astronomical targets--organized by season so you are looking for objects high in the sky--along with very practical approaches on how to actually see them through your eyepiece. Diagrams are also provided that illustrate how they might appear depending on what type of instrument you are using. I would recommend this for any new owner of any decent telescope who is without access to a decent astronomy community to learn from--particularly if they've been frustrated by a few unsuccessful first attempts and are getting discouraged. Don't give up; get this book instead.

Clear skies!
Profile Image for David.
559 reviews131 followers
November 10, 2019
This book really tells you how to steer your telescope. Find a bright star in your telescope that is near something very dim that you can't just point-and-see. Look through your scope and see what stars you can see nearby. With a star map nearby, bend a paper-clip into a circle that encompasses the stars you see in your telescope. Now, you can "hop" in increments of your circle over to the star you want to see. This book has all the great sites to see in the sky, with drawings that ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE WHAT YOU WILL SEE. It can be cool to look at Hubble space telescope color images, but I don't own a Hubble scope. The drawings in this book are at the scale of your typical amateur scopes. Must own! Get the version that is spiral bound, so you can open it on a table next to your scope outside while you observe, or at least lay flat and study before going out to attack the sky.
Profile Image for Alex.
107 reviews9 followers
June 28, 2019
After tinkering not very successfully with a beginner 76 mm telescope for about six months, this book showed me what I was missing and gave me the confidence in myself and my equipment that I really needed. The charts are well-organised, favouring objects that are interesting and easy to find, and are very easy to relate to the view through the eyepiece. The background information has a can-do attitude that stresses that there's something in the sky for any telescope user, and that you should make no apologies for whatever equipment you happen to use. These days I'm out under the skies more often and with more purpose than ever before.
Author 1 book
April 7, 2022
Indispensable if you're into, or getting into, stargazing. I like the pictures of what you'd actually see in a modest (say 90mm or 8in Dob) of the various objects in the sky. It saves fruitless hours of panning your equipment around haphazardly and hoping for the best. If memory also serves, it's divided into the four seasons (you need this for looking at things in the South direction), so you've got a reference of what to see throughout the year. Needless to say, you'll need clear skies - something in Britain we're not too blessed with.
Profile Image for Sean.
320 reviews41 followers
May 25, 2019
Actually, not finished 'reading'. This is a fantastic reference book for nights at the scope. There are very realistic telescope views/drawings for the best objects for the amateur in the sky. I appreciate fantastic Hubble telescope color pictures, but I don't own a Hubble telescope. This book shows you what you will really see from your own back yard. Mandatory to own this book if you want to make the best of your scope.
Profile Image for Michal Paszkiewicz.
348 reviews6 followers
September 6, 2021
An excellent book to get anyone started with backyard astronomy, but also enough objects to last anyone quite a while!

The example pictures are excellent for both encouragement ("wow, I'll be able to see all that?") and for helping one find the objects.

Anyone with a telescope should get one of these
2 reviews
March 11, 2017
A book to keep on the table nigth underneath your telescope!

A book to keep on the table nigth underneath your telescope.
A definite reference book for stargazing and harware selection
Profile Image for Eda Gürses.
12 reviews6 followers
January 1, 2018
Prior to getting a telescope I've read the book and now I'm on my way to buy a telescope. Very simple and informative, great introduction to space.
Profile Image for Pete daPixie.
1,505 reviews3 followers
October 31, 2010
Mostly written for the northern hemisphere observer, 'Turn left at Orion', is set out through the seasons. What I like most about this work is the size of the star maps. These maps are set out from naked eye view, then to spotter scope image, and finally a scope eyepiece view. It really is written and set out for the amateur astronomer with binoculars or a 3 inch refracting scope in mind, and is an excellent aid to go star hopping and locate the feint fuzzies of galaxies, star clusters and nebulae.
The science of astronomy is only dealt with at a fundamental level here, as the title states, it's about how to find these objects more than any in depth treatment.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
46 reviews1 follower
June 4, 2007
In my opinion, a wonderful resource for novices. The guidebook is wisely geared toward beginning astronomers with mediocre equipment in light-heavy situations, people who certainly are going to need some help. I found the maps helpful and easy to follow, and the celestial objects worth looking for. The descriptions are also intriguing, conveying a true passion for the stars and helping me at least appreciate what "swims into my ken." Definately a must for anyone who wants a broader repertoire than the most basic plantets and messier ojbects.
Profile Image for Vicky Sharratt.
26 reviews8 followers
March 24, 2012
An excellent guide to practical astronomy usable by total beginners and experienced astronomers. This text is recommended for practical astonomes using binocluars and telescopes to explore the night sky, although if you don't have either, it's a good companion to online telescopes such as Microsofts WorldWide Telescope(WWT). A revised edition of a classic, this has been updates to cover the improvements in more affordable telescopes which has led to hobby astronomers seeing much more of our wonderful skies.
Profile Image for Erik.
211 reviews7 followers
April 5, 2016
What a wonderful book for some introductory education on viewing the night sky! I must say I learned a great deal and will continue to reference this book during my nocturnal adventures gazing into the heavens.

I closed this book out with some beautiful viewing this morning around 4am, where the chilly 24 degree F temps made for a crystal clear sky. A great way to celebrate the finale of this book.

I give this book a hearty recommendation for the telescopic novice; you won't regret this purchase a single minute.
Profile Image for jer1ch0.
5 reviews
June 30, 2007
I will give a better review later.
This book is excellent for anyone who has just bought a telescope. Do not buy it unless you have bought one.
It gives very clear and concise instructions about finding different stars, constellations and other astronomical sights.
it's like an atlas for the night sky.
More later.
Profile Image for Tom.
20 reviews
June 12, 2016
It seems common that someone buys a scope and don't know what to look for with it.
This book is great for solving this beginners problems by help the user find the most interesting things in the sky for every season.
In addition, there is some information regarding the objects which is great.
I'm using this book a lot at every skygaze.
Profile Image for Paige McLoughlin.
231 reviews71 followers
December 7, 2020
A handy reference to Northern Hemisphere skies especially for people in the mid-latitudes. I am very familiar with this vantage point. Good stuff. Helped me out of a Jam or two when in my most active times in Amateur Astronomy. I have sky apps but I like to go from memory. Often wield a green laser for pedagogical purposes.
3 reviews
December 29, 2010
Excellent guidebook to the cosmos. If you're an amateur stargazer this book needs to be in your collection. It offers lots of information about each celestial object in the sky, how to find it and what to expect it to look like through both a telescope and binoculars. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Wade Corbeil.
73 reviews1 follower
September 24, 2014
A great, easy to follow guide to the night sky for the beginner and advanced observer alike.

Featuring many easy-to-read star charts, interesting objects, and a few challenges that will increase your knowledge of the night sky, and offers a few challenges as well.
Profile Image for Lín.
27 reviews42 followers
August 28, 2014
Wonderful book! The basic information was great, but the chapter on telescopes is not to be missed! I've never seen a better basic guide to understanding telescopes - I recommend it to everyone with an interest in astronomy.
Profile Image for Brian.
209 reviews6 followers
Shelved as 'shelved-for-a-decade'
January 25, 2015
really like this idea, and I borrowed the book from the library, 1/15, but I realized I cant see stars from my apt in the city and I will have to wait to get to know this book until some later point in life.... hopefully
Profile Image for Phil Moyer.
24 reviews2 followers
January 4, 2016
The backyard astronomer's guide to visual observation! This is a highly recommended book for starhopping to easy-to-see objects and constellations. I would say this one is a must for anyone interested in visual astronomy.
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