Observer’s Handbook Edited by Patrick Kelly The Royal Astronomical Society of Ca nada Reviewed by Stewart Rorer
As a life member of the RASC, I automatically get a copy of the following year’s Observer’s Handbook near the end of the current year. The Handbook is always a useful tool, with its day-to-day sky event listings, eclipse descriptions, deep sky object and multiple star lists, plus explanations of the tides and other astronomy-related phenomena. The year 2008 Handbook celebrates the one hundredth year of its publication. It’s a marvelous celebration, I assure one and all. When I first hefted my copy, I realized it had quite a few more pages than its 2007 predecessor, 324 versus 288 to be precise. A quick glance at the table of contents informed me of four new sections, three expanded sections, three updated sections and twenty-five revised sections. One of the new sections, “Rainbows, Halos, Sundogs, Pillars, Coronae, Glories and Heiligenschein,” written by Roy Bishop, clearly explains these atmospheric phenomena. The subsection on rainbows answers the frequently asked question: “Where does the secondary rainbow come from?” The explanation is diagrammed in two separate figures, both carefully drawn and accurately explained. Another added section “Star Party Weather” gives the names, locations, dates and probabilities of different types of cloud cover at midnight. Of course, if you go, you’re still taking a chance of cloudy skies, but this table gives you a good idea of your chance of favorable weather. There’s a new section explaining the electromagnetic spectrum for beginners with no background in physics and, for those who wish to pursue the famous comet hunter’s favorite deep sky objects, there’s “David Levy’s Deep Sky Gems” – arranged by season and somewhat abbreviated from his original list of 384 objects. Overall, the Observer’s Handbook has been made even more useful on its hundredth anniversary and is well worth its cover price of $25.95. For information on publications of the RASC, see their website at http://www.rasc.ca/.