I can think of no better way to start a blog post about the night sky than to quote The Friendly Giant: “look up, look wayyyyy up”. Stars, planets, moons, constellations and galaxies are all things to search for and observe in the night sky.
The warmth of summer is a great time to start learning and you don’t need a massive telescope. A good pair of binoculars will reveal a number of objects that your unaided eye can’t see and they are a great way to learn how to navigate the night sky.
The Winnipeg Public Library has a great selection of resources to help you. I’ve selected a variety of books and television shows from our print and online streaming collections to get you started. Just for fun, I’ve thrown in some stuff by Neil de Grasse Tyson and the potential for life in the Universe. Excelsior!
SETI: Astronomy as a Contact Sport with Jill Tarter
This is a documentary about the organisation SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Among many goals, SETI wants to try to answer the question “are we alone?” SETI does this by listening for signals that could originate from extraterrestrial civilizations in other parts of the universe.
These four videos are part of a 12 episode series called Our Night Sky which examines different objects in the sky such as planets, stars, constellations and where they can be found in different seasons:
- Episode 1: The Constellations and their Stars
- Episode 3: Using Binoculars and Backyard Telescopes
- Episode 7: The Northern Sky and the North Celestial Pole
- Episode 11: The Summer Sky
Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Join Neil deGrasse Tyson as he discusses what we know and don’t know about the universe. Explore new areas of research and knowledge.
Season One of Life in Our Universe with Laird Close
This 24 episode series discusses a variety of topics such as astrobiology (the study of biology beyond earth), extraterrestrial intelligence, does life exist beyond earth, different environments life could evolve in and how to terraform a planet.
The Astronomy Book by David Hughes offers a concise history of the some of the most important events in astronomy, cosmology and physics. Each topic covered is easy to read and each section uses flowcharts and graphics to help present a clear picture of new discoveries and important developments.
Wonders of the Night Sky you Must See before you Die: the Guide to the Most extraordinary Curiosities of our Solar System by Bob King
You’ve read the 1000 places you must see before you die or 1000 songs you must listen to before you die. Now there’s a list for astronomy. Bob King introduces you to 57 sights in the night sky and provides information on how to see these objects using your eyes, binoculars and telescopes.
The Night Sky Atlas: the Moon, Planets, Stars and Deep Sky Objects by Robin Scagell
The Night Sky Atlas offers excellent maps of the sky to help you locate constellations, stars, planets and more. Clearly laid out, it is quick and easy to use. This book is a great addition for anyone starting out in astronomy.
Astronomy: a Self-Teaching Guide by Dinah Moche
Essentially an introductory course in astronomy, this is a terrific and thorough book to grab if you want to learn more than just the locations of different sights in the sky. The eighth edition has links to online resources such as fantastic color images. The book also features tests at the end of each section to help reinforce what you’ve learned.
Learning about and navigating the night sky can be an enjoyable and fulfilling pastime; I hope you find these suggestions helpful and take a look. If you’re looking for an upcoming astronomical event that is easy to see, try the Perseid meteor shower in August. The shower peaks on the nights and early mornings of August 11-12 and 12-13. You don’t need anything but your eyes!