Last year, several new sky atlases were published, all aimed at beginning sky gazers.
The first to appear was Firefly’s “Night Sky Atlas” by Robin Scagell with maps by Wil Tiron. This is the second edition with ISBN 13:978-1-7708-5142-9 (paperback) with a list price of $29.95.
I previously reviewed this book in my Oct. 14, 2012, column. “Night Sky Atlas” is aimed at beginners who want to explore the night sky with their eyes, binoculars or small telescope.
A quite different book is National Geographic”s “Space Atlas” by Dr. James Trefil, a Physics faculty member at George Mason University in Virginia. Trefil has written nearly 50 books.
Some Trefil books that I have used include “Science Matters” and “The Sciences” an integrated Natural Science college text.
“Space Atlas” has ISBN 978-1-4262-0971-0 and its hardcover price is $50. The Introduction focuses on three “spearmen,” scientists who greatly enlarged our perspective of the universe.
First was Nicolaus Copernicus, whose ideas moved the center of the universe from the Earth to the Sun. Second was Friedrich Bessel, the first scientist to accurately measure the distance to a star in the night sky. Third was Edwin Hubble, who discovered that there were other galaxies (besides our own), measured their distance and concluded that the universe was expanding.
There follows a stunning array of full colored seasonal sky maps, showing the bright stars, their constellations and the sun’s positions along its path.
The next section of “Space Atlas” is “The Solar System” showing the planet’s orbits in two cartographic diagrams of the inner planets and the outer planets, which includes Pluto.
“Space Atlas” starts with the formation of our solar system, explaining the differences between the small inner planets and the giant planets.
The treatment of Mercury features cartographic maps of Mercury’s entire surface from NASA’s Messenger which is now orbiting Mercury. Many of Mercury’s features are named after classical composers and famous painters.
There is a similar treatment of Venus, whose prominent features are named after deities from world mythology and noted women from literature.
Key Earth features on the cartographic maps include Iceland, the Andes Mountains, Challenger Deep (the lowest point on Earth, nearly 36,000 feet below the ocean’s surface) and the Himalaya Mountains.
Our Moon also has its own sets of cartographic maps, including the hidden side of the moon, whose features bear the names of European scientists.
Mars features on its cartographical map include Vastitas Borealis, a low land region covered with water ice. There is a brief treatment of the Asteroid Belt.
Jupiter’s atmospheric map shows one side of the giant planet where the Great Red Spot dwells, formed by high pressure gases spinning downward. Jupiter’s inner two giant moons are given a full set of cartographic maps.
We know that Io, the innermost big moon has 400 active volcanoes. Another revelation is that the next big moon, Europa has an ocean under its icy crust.
There is detailed map of Saturn’s cloud belts plus a full set of maps of seven notable moons of Saturn. Uranus and Neptune, called twins for their size, rotation speed and encircling rings, feature detailed maps of four moons of Uranus and Neptune’s Triton.
Moving out of the solar system, there is two-page spread of our galaxy, showing our sun’s position within. There follows a look at our star, the sun. We can take the sun’s pulse through neutrinos, ghost like particles that fly from the sun’s center to its visible surface in 2.5 seconds.
Next to be covered are exoplanets, planetary systems about other stars.
The last section of “Space Atlas” treats a number of popular topics including aged stars, exploding stars, the smallest stars, black holes, dark matter, the distribution of galaxies across the known universe and the beginning of the universe.
I recommend that “Space Atlas” be purchased for middle school and high school libraries as well as public libraries.
SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: The moon was full late yesterday evening. Tomorrow evening the moon will appear near the star Regulus of Leo. By early February, the moon will have moved into the morning sky, rising after midnight.
The planet Jupiter is that bright, steady point high in the evening sky, brighter than any night star.
Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.
Last year, several new sky atlases were published, all aimed at beginning sky gazers.
- Bob Doyle - Astronomy
It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore
At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.
Fronts, highs, lows determine weather
Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.
A long and winding road faces our food
Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.
Here’s a look at what goes on inside you
In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.
Moon-watching easy when you know how
Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.
Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets
How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).
Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one
At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!
Think a little more and be less frazzled
Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.
Technology helps with learning, but take care
Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.
Here are numbers that apply in our lives
One of the best exercises is walking. Cardiologists suggest that each of us walk 10,000 steps per day. Assume each step is 0.5 meters or 19.7 inches. Then 10,000 steps would cover 5,000 meters or 3.11 miles. But studies find that the average American (from age 4 and up) takes only 2,000 steps/day or 1 kilometer.
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- It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore