Revised Fourth Edition: updated for use through 2025.
The first three editions of NightWatch sold more than 600,000 copies, making it the top-selling stargazing guide in the world for the last 20 years. The key feature of this classic title is the section of star charts that are cherished by backyard astronomers everywhere. Each new edition has outsold the previous one because of thorough revisions and additional new material.
NightWatch has been acclaimed as the best general interest introduction to astronomy. The fourth edition has improvements over the 3rd edition in every chapter, including:
This edition includes star charts for use in the southern hemisphere. There are also dozens of new photographs throughout the book that show the latest thrilling discoveries made by current space observatories and probes.
Terence Dickinson, one of Canada's best-loved amateur-astronomy writers, gained renown for unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. His down-to-earth style made him the award-winning best-selling author of 14 astronomy books, including NightWatch, The Backyard Astronomer's Guide, The Universe and Beyond and Hubble's Universe. The cofounder and former editor of SkyNews, Canada's national astronomy magazine, Dickinson was a recipient of the Order of Canada and two honorary doctorates.
In the decades since the first edition of NightWatch appeared in 1983, more than a half a million copies have found their way into the hands of astronomy enthusiasts. For me, the most gratifying aspect of this successful publishing story is the feed-back I've received from so many backyard astronomers who say that the book was their primary guide during the crucial initial stages of their celestial explorations.
As in the previous revised editions, the overriding goal in this new expanded version has been to provide a complete first book of amateur astronomy. I wanted to retain the features that readers say they like, so I have not tampered with the basic structure and presentation. But extensive fine-tuning and up-dating have touched many pages. The most visible of the changes is the addition of a new chapter on the southern-hemisphere skies with a new set of charts styled after the northern-hemisphere ones in Chapter 4. This addition to the book is the direct result of requests from readers of previous editions.
As always with revised editions of my books, I have replaced many photos with either more relevant or simply superior images. Other changes include a major rewrite of the section describing astrophotography, because of the digital-imaging revolution, and a thorough update of amateur-telescope equipment and accessories to reflect many new goodies that have become available since the previous edition in 1998. Where necessary, lists and tables are updated throughout. As before, prices throughout the book are in U.S. dollars.
Although more people are now dabbling in recreational astronomy and the range and quality of equipment to pursue the hobby have never been better, a persistent foe of amateur astronomers is light pollution -- the glare spilled from street lamps, outdoor-sign illumination, parking-lot lights, building security lights and outdoor fixtures around private residences and public buildings. Any one of these sources can ruin your backyard view of the night sky. Even if your observing site is protected from direct interference, outdoor lighting in general produces giant glowing domes over our cities and towns that have beaten back the stars.
Because the glow is visibly growing every year, those who seek the natural beauty of a dark night sky must flee ever farther into the country. For many aficionados, an evening of stargazing has become an expedition. But all is not gloom and doom. The dark cloud cast by light pollution has turned out to have an intriguing silver lining. Far from diminishing interest in astronomy, urban sky glow seems to have fueled it. When our grandparents were young, a view of the night sky strewn with stars and wrapped in the silky ribbon of the Milky Way could be seen from the front porch. Today, for most people, it is a relatively rare and exotic sight, something to be talked about and cherished as a memory.
Many family vacations now include plans for dark-site star-gazing. Each year, thousands of astronomy enthusiasts gather at conventions and summer "star parties" far from city lights to share their interest. In previous editions of NightWatch, I predicted that as urban glow inexorably marches deeper into the countryside, the 21st century will see the emergence of dark-skypreserves -- areas intentionally set aside in state, provincial and national parks where there are no obtrusive lights and never will be. Well, it's already happening. At least half a dozen of these shrines to the glory of the starry night have been established (see "Astronomy Conventions and Star Parties" in Chapter 13), and many more will surely follow in the decades ahead.
Discovering the Cosmos
The Universe in Eleven Steps
Stars for all Seasons
Probing the Depths
Moon and Sun
Solar and Lunar Eclipses
Comets, Meteors and Auroras
Photographing the Night Sky
Southern Hemisphere Night Sky