Guide to Night Skies of Southern Africa

By Peter Mack

(Struik Nature, R135)

The time had arrived to upgrade my cellphone and one of the new programs I was able to download was Sky Maps.

I now had a screen full of stars and planets with names that meant nothing to me. Now, together with this book and a small telescope bought at an auction, I am ready to reach for the stars.

The first part covers basic astronomy, information on the astronomer’s toolkit and how to calculate the distance from Earth, and the basic principles of telescopes.

The section on the solar system covers how sunspots affect radio communication on earth.

Planets’ positions and Kepler’s law of 1619 are discussed, explaining the planetary motions around our sun. The detailed Nasa photos of the planets give insight into atmosphere, temperature and surfaces.

Learn about dwarf planets and how they get their names. The best time to view the moon is the period during the first and third quarters, and crater names and other features are given.

The chapter on comets and meteors, with explanations of eclipses and photographs of galaxies with various classifications, is extremely interesting.

The eight star charts are the same as the ones found on my cellphone, but have information which explains what I am looking at.

There are many more interesting objects in the sky, all of which will take me a long time to find.

A list of selected interesting objects, the appendix and glossary give more interesting information.

This book was first published in 1987 and has been reprinted 11 times, but has been out of print for 10 years.

This enlarged, new-format edition has been updated to incorporate the latest findings and advances in astronomy.

It is also available in Afrikaans.

I found this guide to be extremely helpful and anybody wanting to start with astronomy should buy it. – Graham Low