NONFICTION : THE STAR GUIDE: A UNIQUE SYSTEM FOR IDENTIFYING THE BRIGHTEST STARS IN THE NIGHT SKY by Steven L. Beyer (Little, Brown: $22.95, hardcover; $11.95, paperback, illustrated).
Many who used their binoculars (or even newly acquired telescopes) to view Halley’s comet found that there are stars visible even in light-choked urban skies, and, as the famous itinerant retreats, they may want to explore the heavens further. Steven Beyer, a science teacher and planetarium lecturer, has drawn on his experience presenting the constellations to city-bound New Yorkers to select the most identifiable objects for his readers.
Month-by-month, the Earth orbits the sun, bringing a steady progression of change in the stars visible during evening hours. For each successive month, Beyer presents a chapter divided into about 10 sections. A typical section begins with a small, easily readable sky map followed by two pages of description, lore, history and noteworthy astronomical facts for the constellation or individual star that is the section’s focus.
Beginners will find helpful suggestions on locating and viewing in Part I. Those with telescopes will find directions for many fine objects throughout the year, though this guide is primarily for people who want to see stars with their eyes or with optical equipment. A full reading of all section texts will give a concise introduction to astronomy as a science, but the book really isn’t meant to be read straight through. It is intended that the reader pick it up on a cloudless evening, turn to the current section and take it outside to find the stars.