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Night Sky Observer's Guide, Volume 4, The Glories of the Milky Way to –54° by George Robert Kepple, 8.5 by 11 inches, hardbound, 500 pages, $34.95. For information about the first three volumes click HERE

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For information about the first three volumes click HERE


From the Author’s Foreword
For most of my observing life the faint outlines of the Milky Way were obscured by light pollution at my home observatory in Pennsylvania. From time to time I would venture forth to truly dark observing sites like the Texas Star Party for a few days to get a glimpse of this splendor. About 15 years ago I retired and moved to the high desert of Arizona where the Milky Way stands out prominently during the Summer and early Fall. Now, night after night for months on end it is there to greet me. For one who has been observing “faint fuzzes” and other elusive objects since childhood it was, and is, a dramatic and glorious naked-eye sight. With these new-found treasures to tempt me, and plenty of time on my hands I set about re-observing and photographing this fascinating area of the sky. As I progressed I realized that even though I had co-authored three observing books covering the entire heavens there was yet more I could say about the inhabitants of the Milky Way. And indeed there was, I ended up with notes on 1,008 new objects and re-observed 801 others that had been covered in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Night Sky Observer’s Guide and added many new eyepiece impressions and photos.

While it may be a challenge to detect most of the dark and bright nebulae from your backyard, practically all of the 977 clusters can be seen, and when you venture to a truly dark site you are will be prepared with this book.

From Sky & Telescope's December 2019 Review

For the last couple of decades, most of my astronomical observations have been made with a camera rather than an eyepiece. Recently, I’ve been making a concerted effort to return to visual observing, and perhaps even take it a bit more seriously than I had in the past. Volume 4 of The Night Sky Observer’s Guide, which bears the subtitle The Glories of the Milky Way to –54°, has been a wonderful resource on this journey. This book was my introduction the series, and I was so impressed by it that I purchased the first two volumes, which cover the whole sky for Northern Hemisphere observers, as well. (Volume 3 addresses the southern skies.)

Volume 4 easily stands on its own, apart from the rest of the series. There’s some overlap with the content of previous volumes in the objects covered, but here the author, George Robert Kepple, focuses more intently on the Milky Way region. He’s added more than 1,000 new objects not previously covered, including E. E. Barnard’s entire Catalogue of Dark Markings of the Sky, a great many planetary nebulae and the van den Berg reflection nebulae, and Beverly Lynds’ Catalogue of Dark Nebulae. More than 800 objects listed in the earlier volumes were also updated with new notes and/or photographs.

I found the first chapter to be a satisfying refresher and primer on visual observing basics. It covers the characteristics and nature of the different kinds of astronomical targets, conventions for making observing logs, and some advice on record keeping, sketching, eyepiece usage, and so on. This book is an excellent place to start for any beginning observer, and the Milky Way is a buffet of delicious objects for telescopes of all sizes as well as for binoculars.

Advanced observers will also appreciate the remainder of this book, and in fact, it would be a mistake to think it isn’t useful for images. Each chapter focuses on a specific constellation with annotated charts, photographs, or sketches of each object. The observing notes are rich, not tedious and frequently show how the target will look through different instruments: 8x50 binoculars, 8- to 10-inch scopes at 100x, or 120 to 14-inch scopes at 125x, for example. When appropriate, Kepple also describes the effects of using a UHC, O III, or H-Beta visual filter. In addition to “faint fuzzies,” a plethora of interesting star clusters (977 in total) that should be accessible even with modest optics at moderately light-polluted locations are included in the target list.

I’ve seen my share of observing guides for which the images were reaped from an old set of photographic plates, typically with large areas completely blown out or saturated. As an imager, I was pleased with the hight-quality photographs and sketches provided for all of the discussed objects. In fact, just leafing through the book, I’ve discovered many dozens of new targets that I want to photograph . . . I mean . . . observer with my Dobsonian.