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Curious George Discovers the Stars

Rey, H.A.

H.A. Rey, Curious George Discovers the Stars (Houghton Mifflin)

A delightful introduction to H.A. Rey's stick figure constellation drawings for the youngest skywatchers.

Book cover for Richard Allen, Star Names

Allen, Richard Hinckley

Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names:  Their Lore and Meaning (1889; Dover reprint).

This work by Allen is a true classic, still the essential starting point for investigation of skylore.  Each IAU Constellation page at this website links to the corresponding chapter at Google Books.  The Table of Contents at Google Books does not indicate constellations names, so use the table of contents below instead.

Olcott, Star Lore

Olcott, William Tyler

William Tyler Olcott, Star Lore of All Ages (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1911; reprint Dover Press, 2004).

Olcott drew heavily upon the work of R.A. Allen, and treated only the northern constellations, but this remains a readable and entertaining overview of constellation lore.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Burnham, Robert, Jr.

Robert Burnham, Jr., Burnham's Celestial Handbook:  An Observer's Guide to the Universe beyond the Solar System (Dover, 1978), 3 vols.

Countless amateur astronomers have been inspired through the years, during their all-night hours, by examining under the light of a red flashlight their volumes of Burnham's Celestial Handbook lying open next to a telescope.

H.A. Rey, The Stars:  A New Way to See Them (Boston, 1954, 1982).

Rey, H. A.

H.A. Rey, The Stars:  A New Way to See Them (Boston, 1954, 1982).

A true classic:  This introductory work, by the author of the Curious George stories for children, has introduced more young people to the constellations and enjoyment of the night sky than any other book.

Ian Ridpath, Star Tales

Ridpath, Ian

Ian Ridpath, Star Tales (Cambridge:  Lutterworth Press, 1988).

This concise survey of the lore of the constellations is a great read, made more captivating by the abundant illustrations from the star atlases of Flamsteed and Bode.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

Winter, Jeanette

Jeanette Winter, Follow the Drinking Gourd (NY: Alfred Knopf, 1988)

This constellation story, beautifully illustrated and told by Jeanette Winter, explains how slaves would follow the Drinking Gourd (Big Dipper) to find their way northward on the Underground Railroad.  Musical notation is included for the old slave song that contained encoded instructions for following the Drinking Gourd to freedom.

Crowe, Theories of the World

Crowe, Michael

Michael Crowe, Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution, second edition (Dover, 2001)

Students in history of science may find the "Observing" web pages on this site to serve as a reading companion to the first chapter and appendix of Michael Crowe, Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution (Dover, 1990). This inexpensive little book also includes excerpts from the works of Ptolemy and Copernicus.

Book cover for Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights

Raymo, Chet

Chet Raymo, 365 Starry Nights (Simon and

Short introductions to the night sky in astronomy, literature and mythology for every night of the year.  Use an app like StarWalk or SkySafari to find the constellations outside at night, but use this book to take your first steps to learn about them.

How the Stars Fell into the Sky

Oughton, Jerrie

Jerrie Oughton, How the Stars Fell into the Sky:  A Navajo Legend (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992), illustrated by Lisa Desimini

Booklist review (blurb on back cover):  "A Navajo legend is retold in simple, poetic style with paintings that capture the physicalness of the desert at night and also the elemental mystery of the story... the pictures have a marvelous depth, with a sense of infinite space beyond the curved rim of the earth."

Bakich, Cambridge Guide to the Constellations

Bakich, Michael E.

Michael Bakich, Cambridge Guide to the Constellations (Cambridge, 1995)

An indispensable reference, "the most comprehensive single reference on the constellations to date; highly illustrated with star charts and maps of the celestial figures.  A series of tables provide a wealth of information and allow easy look-up and comparison for the constellations."

Staal, New Patterns in the Sky

Staal, Julius D. W.

Julius D. W. Staal, The New Patterns in the Sky:  Myths and Legends of the Stars (Saline, MI: McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., 1996)

Staal's book is one of the most readable 1-volume introductions to skylore.  It helpfully attempts to balance traditional, classical skylore with the myths and legends of non-Western cultures.

Halley came to Jackson

Carpenter, Mary Chapin

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Halley Came to Jackson (Harper Collins, 1998), illustrated by Dan Andreasen

A moving story about how the starry skies (in this case, Halley's comet) connect our lives across generations. Carpenter focuses on how Halley's comet came to signify the love between a father and a daughter. 

A storybook companion to a song performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

 

Night Sky Observer's Guide

Kepple, George Robert

,

Sanner, Glenn W.

,

Cooper, Ian

,

Kay, Jenni

George Robert Kepple, Glenn W. Sanner, Ian Cooper, and Jenni Kay, The Night Sky Observer's Guide (Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell, 1998-2008), 3 vols.

These three volumes are an observer's handbook designed to help the observer at the telescope learn to see more intelligently what can be ascertained at the telescope.  It provides training in seeing, in how to tease out the nearly indiscernible details of practically every deep sky object that is within the reach of larger amateur telescopes.

Jay M. Pasachoff, Stars and Planets, Peterson Field Guides (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Pasachoff, Jay M.

Jay M. Pasachoff, Stars and Planets, Peterson Field Guides (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Kunitzsch and Smart, Dictionary of Modern Star Names

Kunitzsch, Paul

,

Smart, Tim

Paul Kunitzsch and Tim Smart, A Dictionary of Modern Star Names (Sky & Telescope, 2006), 2d ed.

Refer to this brief little book as a supplement to R.H. Allen's classic, Star Names. It corrects the latter in light of a century of scholarship.

Ashworth, Out of This World

Ashworth, William B., Jr.

William B. Ashworth, Jr., Out of This World: The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas (Kansas City, MO:  Linda Hall Library, 2007); online exhibition with printed catalog and Further Out supplement.

There is no better first entry into the history of celestial atlases than this online exhibition and its companion printed catalogs (Out of This World and Further Out).

Rey, Find the Constellations

Rey, H.A.

H.A. Rey, Find the Constellations (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 2d ed.

A simplified version of H.A. Rey's classic, The Stars.

Consolmagno and Davis, Turn Left at Orion

Consolmagno, Guy

,

Davis, Dan M.

Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis, Turn Left at Orion (Cambridge, 2011).

This best-selling book is an all-in-one manual for the beginning amateur astronomer.  The subtitle says it all:  "Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - and How to Find Them."

Kanas, Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography

Kanas, Nick

Nick Kanas, Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography (Springer, 2012), 2d ed.

This fundamental resource is the most recent extensive survey of star atlases. Think of it as the next step after the online exhibition, Out of This World.  Packed full of interesting information, it may be read from cover to cover or consulted as a reference.  Keep it at hand when surveying the images from star atlases on this website.

Marett-Crosby, Twenty-Five Astronomical Observations that Changed the World

Marett-Crosby, Michael

Michael Marett-Crosby, Twenty-Five Astronomical Observations that Changed the World:  And How to Make Them Yourself (Springer, 2013)

"Human history is also the record of our fascination with the sky, and to look upwards is to follow in the steps of such greats as Galileo and Newton.  What they and others once saw in the heavens for the first time, amateur astronomers can discover anew using this guide to twenty-five of the greatest journeys through space."

Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Constellation Myths, with Aratus

Eratosthenes, Hyginus, Aratus

Robin Hard, trans., Eratosthenes and Hyginus:  Constellation Myths; with Aratus' Phaenomena, Oxford World Classics (Oxford, 2015).

The three fundamental Greco-Roman texts for the ancient constellations of Ptolemy are included here in fresh new translations by Robin Hard, who also provides informative notes and an introduction.  Instead of just reading about ancient constellation myths, it's never been easier, thanks to this new edition, to spend a few evenings reading the actual sources themselves.

Annals of the Deep Sky

Kanipe, Jeff

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Webb, Dennis

Jeff Kanipe and Dennis Webb, Annals of the Deep Sky:  A Survey of Galactic and Extragalactic Objects (Richmond, VA: Willmann-Bell, Inc., 2015-), 6 vols., ongoing series.

As an updated successor to Burnham's Celestial Handbook, this ongoing series explores the latest scientific understanding of deep sky objects, providing clear explanations of astrophysical theories and concepts while interweaving interesting stories in the history of astronomy. Highly recommended! From the back cover: