Can anyone recommend some beginner astronomy books?
Hi, Im planning to major in astronomy and physics in the fall.
I've recently over the past three months or so become extremely interested in astronomy and decided its what I want to major in, although I have always had an interest in the stars and things beyond this earth.
I was wondering if anyone could recommend some good astronomy books that would give me some beginner knowledge in the field?
Thanks a lot :]
- Anonymous10 years agoFavorite Answer
For observational astronomy, Burnham's Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham, Jr. This is a classic.
Kenneth Glyn Jones, Messier's Nebulae and Star Clusters. Another classic.
Hans Vehrenberg. "Atlas of Deep Sky Splendors."
Some older astronomy books are online at Google Books. They are out of date scientifically but the night sky hasn't changed- T.W. Webb's "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes" and Garrett Serviss' many books.
More relevant to college courses (there is a clear distinction between amateur astronomy, which is old-fashioned visual observations, and academic research astronomy, which is more CCD's and computers):
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. By Brian Greene
A great physics book is Alan Guth's "The Inflationary Universe." He explains the Big Bang cosmology and the inflationary theory in wonderful detail, without all the complicated math. This is especially relevant with the Hadron collider in operation- much of his theories were confirmed by COBE and the Wilkinson anisotropy probe, and now Hadron is putting it to the test.
If you can spend some time in a good research library, peruse research journals such as Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Astrophysical Journal. There is a great difference between popular astronomy books and those written for astronomy or physics majors and grad students. It will give you a better idea what is in store for you if you pursue the field.
Many astronomy books become out of date very fast, except for a few standard textbooks. Astronomers and physicists typically spend more time reading journals than books. Try the physics library at a local university- that is where the astronomy books and journals are usually kept (i.e. Peyton Hall at Princeton University, Serin Physics Lab, Rutgers University.)
PS: All the reading suggestions posted by other answerers are excellent too! The DK books are very good but very basic, a few of Larry's list I haven't read (maybe I will, the ones I have are great suggestions).
- Anthony ELv 410 years ago
This goes for most subjects, DK makes great books. Particularly, DK's Eyewitness Companion for Astronomy is a great starting point for a beginner. In this relatively small book, it teaches all about the history of astronomy, the universe and it's origins, phenomena in the universe, the Solar System, observations of the night sky and constellations, and even a monthly sky guide.
- Larry454Lv 710 years ago
In the area of observational astronomy - like amateur astronomy, going outside with a scope and seeing things, etc, my favorite sources are:
1. Nightwatch by Terence Dickinson
2. Astronomy Hacks by the Thompson family
3. Burnham's Celestial Handbook by Burnham
If your taste is more toward the large-scale or theoretical:
1. Cosmos by Carl Sagan
2. Death by Black Hole by N.D. Tyson
3. Origins of Existence by Fred Adams
4. Einstein's Telescope by Evalyn Gates
5. The Cosmic Perspective by Donahue et al
- RogerLv 710 years ago
If you want to learn the constellations and your way around the sky, "The Stars" by H.A. Rey.
Any text by James Kaler like his "Ever Changing Sky" or "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stars" are well written, he also has a website you should checkout. Good luck.