Driftless Dark Skies

When clouds get in the way of enjoying the starry skies of the Driftless, there are plenty of great astronomy books. Here are some of my favorites.

“The Stars: A New Way to See Them” and “Find the Constellations” by H.A. Rey. These were written in the 1950s and were my guides to stargazing in the 1960s. They have been revised and remain the best intro to astronomy. They are often shelved in the children’s section, which means they explain things clearly. You may remember Rey as the creator of Curious George.

“The Total Skywatcher’s Manual” by Linda Shore, David Prosper and Vivian White. Astronomical Society of the Pacific is the best at astronomy education, and their guide takes you through the steps of seeing the universe with your eyes, binoculars and telescope. Besides the 275+ skills and tricks, the book is dew resistant and glows in the dark.

“NightWatch” by Terence Dickinson. This is the book that educated me when I rediscovered my love of stargazing in the 1990s. I admire his explanation of the universe in 11 steps, guide to choosing equipment, star charts, tips for seeing better, and discussion of clusters, nebulas, galaxies and more.

“Turn Left at Orion” by Guy Consolmagno and Dan Davis. This is the guide I use when I am selecting what to view each season. Instead of awesome photos from Hubble, you get more realistic sketches from the author showing what you will actually see through a small telescope as well as easy directions on locating an object and a clear description of what you are seeing. Consolmagno, S.J., is director of the Vatican Observatory.

“Stars Above, Earth Below” by Tyler Nordgren. Ten years ago, Nordgren started a project of working with rangers and visitors in national parks to promote the idea that “half the park is after dark.” Each chapter focuses on a different park and connects the astronomy above with the geology below. It’s an inspiration to me as I share dark skies at Governor Dodge State Park, Kickapoo Valley Reserve and the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. His 1930s WPA-style travel posters promoting parks as astronomy destinations are awesome.

“There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars” by Bob Crelin and Amie Ziner. I love sharing this story with kids and adults as I promote dark skies. Excellent introduction to why dark skies matter, how we are losing the starry skies to light pollution, and the simple steps we can take to bring back the night. Wonderful combination of words and pictures.

You can find these at your local independent booksellers and libraries. Start browsing that Dewey Decimal 520 shelf.

John Heasley is an astronomy educator and stargazer who enjoys connecting people with the cosmos. For more information about stargazing in southwestern Wisconsin, like Driftless Stargazing LLC on Facebook and find out whenever there’s something awesome happening in the skies above.