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How We See the Sky: A Naked-Eye Tour of Day and Night

Popular Science

By: Thomas Hockey

239 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations

University of Chicago Press

Paperback | Oct 2011 | #192153 | ISBN-13: 9780226345772
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NHBS Price: £14.99 $19/€17 approx
Hardback | Oct 2011 | #192152 | ISBN-13: 9780226345765
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £41.99 $53/€47 approx

About this book

Gazing up at the heavens from our backyards or a nearby field, most of us see an undifferentiated mess of stars - if, that is, we can see anything at all through the glow of light pollution. Today's casual observer knows far less about the sky than did our ancestors, who depended on the sun and the moon to tell them the time and on the stars to guide them through the seas. Nowadays, we don't need the sky, which is good, because we've made it far less accessible, hiding it behind the skyscrapers and excessive artificial light of our cities.

"How We See the Sky" gives us back our knowledge of the sky, offering a fascinating overview of what can be seen there without the aid of a telescope. Thomas Hockey begins by scanning the horizon, explaining how the visible universe rotates through this horizon as night turns to day and season to season. Subsequent chapters explore the sun's and moon's respective motions through the celestial globe, as well as the appearance of solstices, eclipses, and planets, and how these are accounted for in different kinds of calendars. In every chapter, Hockey introduces the common vocabulary of today's astronomers, uses examples past and present to explain them, and provides conceptual tools to help newcomers understand the topics he discusses.

Packed with illustrations and enlivened by historical anecdotes and literary references, "How We See the Sky" reacquaints us with the wonders to be found in our own backyards.

Entertaining and very readable, How We See the Sky presents an up-to-date approach to what a dedicated visual observer can hope to understand by carefully monitoring the sky. In addition it provides a wealth of information that informs the reader about celestial phenomena. In this respect, it follows in a long tradition of astronomical handbooks and celestial viewing guides, many of which are now dated.
-Jay Holberg, University of Arizona


1. Bowl of Night
2. This Big Ol' Wheel Keeps Rolling
3. A Globe of Stars
4. Of Precession, Planispheres, and Patience
5. The King of Day
6. Solstices, Equinoxes, and More
7. Around the World with the Sun
8. Many Moons
9. Living Month to Month
10. Facing Up to the Moon (and the Sun, Too)
11. Eclipses
12. Placing Planets

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Thomas Hockey is professor of astronomy at the University of Northern Iowa.

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