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Next Stargazing June 17th
Next Stargazing June 17th

Observer's Handbook 2016


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The Observer's Handbook is a 354-page guide published annually since 1907 by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Through its long tradition and the expertise of more than 50 contributors, the Observer's Handbook has come to be regarded as the standard North American reference for data on the sky. The material in the Handbook is of interest to professional and amateur astronomers, scientists, teachers at all levels, students, science writers, campers, Scout and Guide leaders, as well as interested general readers. The Observer's Handbook is an integral part of many astronomy courses at the secondary and university levels, and it should be on the reference shelf of every library. The various sections in the Observer's Handbook are of two kinds:

Upcoming Astronomical Events

Sections dealing with astronomical events that occur during the current year. Information includes:

  • times of sunrise and sunset;
  • moonrise and moonset (for latitudes 20 to 60 degrees N);
  • Moon phases and other lunar phenomenon;
  • conjunctions, elongations, etc. of the planets;
  • eclipses and transits, ;
  • location of the planets and bright asteroids;
  • returns of periodic comets;
  • times of meteor showers;
  • predictions of occultations by the Moon and by asteroids;
  • the orbital positions of the brighter satellites of both Jupiter and Saturn; and
  • predictions of the cycles of many variable stars.

There is a 24-page section called “The Sky Month By Month,” which gives an extensive listing of events for each month of the year.

Astronomical Reference Information

Sections dealing with astronomical data and other information that does not vary much from year to year (although revisions are made annually to ensure that the information is the best available). Information includes:

  • orbital and physical data on the planets and their satellites;
  • astronomical and physical constants;
  • some optical properties of telescopes and binoculars;
  • a new section on the electromagnetic spectrum;
  • information on filters for astronomical observing;
  • light pollution and sky transparency;
  • a description of the various systems of specifying time;
  • information on the Sun including sunspots and aurorae;
  • two new sections on solar and lunar observing;
  • a list of meteorite craters in North and Central America;
  • advice on using the Observer's Handbook for teaching astronomy;
  • information on the Gegenschein and zodiacal light;
  • a new section on sky phenomena;
  • 40 pages of authoritative tables dealing with stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies; and
  • maps of the Moon and of the entire stellar sky.