The Constellations

If you need to find out about a star constellation then Richard Dibbon-Smith’s Web site about The Constellations is what you need. The table is sorted alphabetically and includes all 88 constellations (personally, I would have grouped them by Northern and Southern hemisphere with a generous overlap but who is arguing?)

Richard sells a couple of small format (A6) books based on the information in the Web site and I have both. The Constellations Pocket Guide is a ‘perfect’ bound (i.e. pages glued together like most paperback books) 298 page tome measuring about three-quarters of an inch thick. It fits into a spare pouch in a rucksack. Each constellation has a couple of pages and a map with the naked eye stars and descriptions of notable objects and a re-telling of the myth, a sort of Coles Notes guide to the Greek mind that is more useful than you might imagine.

The Binocular (and Naked eye) Guide to the Stars is a spiral bound A6 format book again with all the constellations listed alphabetically but without as much detail on the mythology. Instead the space is filled with descriptions of notable stars, clusters and other objects in each constellation with particular mention of the variable stars that can be seen easily with the unaided eye or binoculars. Constellation maps covering 30 to 50 degrees of sky are not provided, instead you get representations of parts of the constellation as seen through binoculars with a field of 7.5 degrees – very handy under a dark sky, also useful for many telescope finders. Objects that can be seen effectively only with optical aid have a cute binocular icon printed next to them. Constellations in this shorter book start part way down a page in some cases – this makes it harder to vandalise the book to include only the relevant constellations!

The Web site provides quantities of information for free access, and self-published books are available for a small charge, and this to me shows how the Web can facilitate self-publishing.

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