An Intimate Look at the Night Sky Summary

Chet Raymo

An Intimate Look at the Night Sky

“This book has as its purpose the reestablishment of intimacy with the night,” writes Chet Raymo in this lucid introduction to stargazing and astronomy. “To that end, it offers the knowledge of the dome of the night that would have been the heritage of every child in an earlier era.” Lamenting the light pollution that blinds urban dwellers to the wonders of the heavens, Raymo seeks to rekindle in readers a passionate interest in the night sky our ancestors knew so well. He succeeds admirably.

Writing in a lyrical, readable style, Raymo combines practical information on star and planet formation, the paths of comets, dates of meteor showers, the mechanics of lunar eclipses, and other astronomical data and theory with stories drawn from folklore, “starlore,” and the history of astronomy. His personal musings infuse his scientific ruminations with a sense of awe, wonder, and mystery. Organized according to the seasons, each section of the book includes clearly drawn star maps showing which objects are visible on a clear night in the Northern Hemisphere. Raymo's engaging commentary accompanying the maps guides the reader in identifying constellations, stars, planets, and deep space objects one can see with the naked eye or with binoculars. Black and white photographs of galaxies, nebulas, supernovas, and other celestial objects open a window on a universe glowing with terrible beauty.

Much of the information Raymo presents will be familiar to seasoned amateur and professional astronomers. Beginning and intermediate stargazers, however, will no doubt find much that will captivate their imaginations and challenge their minds. The book's compact size makes it especially conducive to carrying outdoors for observing.