University Lowbrow Astronomers

University Lowbrow Astronomers Book List
Introductory Book List

by Dave Snyder

This section lists astronomy books and magazines suitable for people just starting in astronomy. It is not a complete list of all astronomy texts. Some of these texts contain bibliographies which contain other references. (Go here for books and periodicals aimed at young people.)


Astronomy. [Published Monthly - Kalmbach Publishing].

Explore the Universe. [Published Annually - Kalmbach Publishing].

Sky & Telescope. [Published Monthly - Sky Publishing].

Sky Calendar. [One page. Published Monthly - Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan].


------. 1998. in Scientific American Presents (Spring 1998 - Magnificent Cosmos). Volume 9, Number 1.

A series of articles relating to astronomy. Each one is an update of an article that previously appeared in Scientific American.

------. 1999. in Scientific American Presents (Spring 1999 - The Future of Space Exploration). Volume 10, Number 1.

A series of articles covering space exploration. There is a description of all the current unmanned probes such as Galileo and Cassini, as well as missions planned for the near future. Some of the articles are updates of articles that previously appeared in Scientific American.

Ackman, Martha. 2003. The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight. New York: Random House.

The story of women in the american space program. A group of women were given tests similar to the tests given to prospective male astronauts; 13 successfully passed these tests. However none of them ever flew in space. This is their story.

Asimov, Isaac. 1991. Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Earth and Space. New York: Random House.

The late Isaac Asimov had a unique talent for explaining complex scientific ideas in simple language. He was a very prolific author. Go here for some additional Asimov texts. This was one of his last books, in it he poses 111 astronomy questions. He then provides an answer to them (or at least most of them).

Audouze, J., Israël, G. and Falque, J. C., editors. 1994. The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Bergman, Bob. 1995. Secrets of the Night Sky: The Most Amazing Things in the Universe You Can See With the Naked Eye. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Crossen, Craig and Tirion, Wil. 1992. Binocular Astronomy. Richmond, Virginia: Willmann-Bell.

Consolmango, Guy and Davis, Dan M. 1989. Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope and How to Find Them. Revised edition. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Dickinson, Terence. 1996. Summer Stargazing. Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books.

------. 2006. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Fourth edition: Revised and Expanded for Use Through 2018. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books.

This book has a set of fifth magnitude star charts (suitable for beginners) along with plenty of text explaining different aspects of astronomy.

Ferris, Timothy. 2002. Seeing in the Dark: How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril. New York: Simon and Schuster.

------. 2002. Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Despite slight differences in the title, these are two editions of the same book.

Timothy Ferris gives a series of stories of amateur astronomers who viewed the night sky and contributed to the science of astronomy.

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue thorough the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book. Each year a theme is selected and a book is chosen for the community to read and discuss. For the year 2009, the theme was “The Universe: Yours To Discover” and the selected book was Seeing in the Dark. More information about the The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program.

See also “Seeing in the Dark By Timothy Ferris—A book review.” by Christopher Sarnecki (October, 2004).

Henbest, N. and Marten, M. 1996. The New Astronomy. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Harrington, Philip S. 2003. Star Watch: The Amateur Astronomer’s Guide to Finding, Observing, and Learning about Over 125 Celestial Objects. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

A guide to observing the moon, planets, asteroids, the sun, and various deep sky objects. The book is aimed at beginners with small telescopes or binoculars.

Levy, David H. 1991. The Sky: A User’s Guide. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

David Levy is an amateur astronomer who (among other things) discovered a series of comets. This book provides people new to astronomy numerous insights into amateur astronomy (however more experienced amateurs will gain something from the book as well). It contains a list of resources for those who want to learn more.

Malin, David. 1999. The Invisible Universe. Boston: Callaway Editions (A Bullfinch Press Book - Little Brown and Company).

David Malin is one of the best astrophotographers. He has collected some of his best photographs of galaxies, nebulae and star clusters into this oversized book. Both Northern and Southern hemisphere objects are included. For each photograph, there is a page of text explaining the object significance. There is also a very short introduction to astronomy, three catalogs (the Messier objects, the bright stars and a list of objects Messier might have included if he lived in the southern hemisphere) and a brief explanation of how some of the photographs were produced.

Morrison, P. et al. 1995. Powers of Ten: A Book About the Relative Sizes of Things and the Effect of Adding Another Zero. Redding, Connecticut: W. H. Freeman and Company.

A journey from the very small to the very large in pictures.

Pasachoff, Jay M., with illustrations by Wil Tirion. 2000. Peterson Field Guides: Stars and Planets. 4th edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Primack, Joel R. and Abrams, Nancy Ellen. 2006. The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. New York: Riverhead Books.

On the back cover, you will find this quote from Paul Davies (Cosmologist at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology): “Primack and Abrams have the knack of true storytelling, conveying the romance of cosmology without compromising scientific accuracy and balance. This is an inspirational journey through a wonderland, from the cosmic origin to a destiny limited only by our imagination. A delight to read!”

Sobel, Dava. 1999. Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love. New York: Walker and Company.

------. 2005. The Planets. New York: Viking.

Schaaf, Fred. 1998. 40 Nights to Knowing the Night Sky: A Night-By-Night Skywatching Primer. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Tirion, Wil. 1998. The Cambridge Star Atlas. 2nd edition. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

This book has a set of fifth magnitude star charts (suitable for beginners), a set of sixth magnitude star charts, lists of variable stars, double stars, nebulae and galaxies and a small amount of additional supporting text.


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