Deep-Sky Wonders (Walter Scott Houston)

Deep-Sky Wonders (Stargazing)Deep-Sky Wonders has been created by adapting the work of Walter Scott Houston from his Sky & Telescope articles over the years.  Unfortunately for us “Scotty” [as he was affectionately known] is no longer with us, the book was edited by Stephen James O’Meara who also works at Sky & Telescope.

Each chapter of the book covers a single month and includes descriptions [in beautiful prose] of a number of objects that, during the month, will be seen particularly well.  At the end of the each chapter is a very handy summary table that makes refering to the objects simplicity.  There is also an excellent Bibliography and Index.

But of course, there is a lot more to this superb book than just the chapters for each month.  “Scotty” really knew his way around the heavens and you will find, within these pages, objects you had not heard of before – I guarantee it.  Even if you consider yourself well-versed in the Heavens, I am sure that in Deep-Sky Wonders you will find new objects to view or photograph.

I would like to relate to you the “gem” I found in this book.   I wanted to image the Deep-Sky object nearest Polaris, and I asked on several astronomy forums “what Deep-Sky object lies nearest to Polaris?”  Now, not many people image near Polaris, so I didn’t get any useful answers back beyond what I already knew.  

Caldwell 1 is the most Northerly object in Patrick Moore’s Caldwell catalogue, a very nice, very old, open cluster. But I also tracked down two very nice galaxies NGC2300 and NGC2276, a giant elliptical and an Arp galaxy – lying much closer to Polaris than NGC188 [Caldwell 1].   Having imaged all these objects I thought my job was done.

Not so! Go to the August section of Deep-Sky Wonders and “Scanning the Pole” and what do you find?

A beautiful little spiral galaxy, NGC3172 called “Polarissima” due to its proximity to Polaris. So I learned something new, even in an area I thought I had researched quite thoroughly – a remarkable book.

I would like to finish this review with just one more example from this book. In the February chapter “Wonders in the Void” we come across a great story in astronomical observing history.  In 1980, “Scotty” received a letter from Lucian J. Kemble describing a fine grouping of stars in Camelopardalis – a constellation well-known for being perhaps one of the largest, faintest, groups of stars in the sky [and therefore generally ignored].

Kemble had found “a beautiful cascade of faint stars tumbling from the northwest down to the open cluster NGC1502”. Scotty called this newly discovered asterism “Kemble’s Cascade” and the name stuck. Great stories, great history, totally invaluable book for the amateur astronomer!

Deep-Sky Wonders is published by Sky Publishing Corporation (published 1999, 320 pages) and can be purchased at Amazon or any good book seller.

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