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The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada "OBSERVERS HANDBOOK 2004"

cover of Observers Handbook 2004 issue
Above: RASC "Observers Handbook 2004". Cover photograph is an unusual image of a grouping of planets. Astronomy is among the oldest of the sciences known to man, it is among the most popular hobbies. And even for a beginner the price of admission is free as it is can accomplished by viewing with the naked eye from remote, dark sky location.

As the planets weave across the night sky they occasionally form groupings, as occurred in this picture taken on the morning of 26 August 2001. In this photo, the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn form a straight line along the ecliptic that extends just under the Pleiades open cluster of stars (known to astronomers as M45). This year, on 3 April, Venus will lie a mere 0.6 degrees beneath this star cluster; also, all five of the naked eye planets (and the Moon) will be visible in the evening sky between late March and early April 2004. An even rarer co-alignment involving Venus occurs in 8 June when Venus transits the disk of the Sun for the first time since 1882.

This photo taken by Roland Dechesne at Mount Kobau, British Columbia. Shot about 80 minutes prior to sunrise, Mr. Dechesne employed a 15mm f/4 lens on a 35mm film camera, with Kodak Elite 200 ASA film exposed for ten (ten) minutes.

Despite the brightening twilight, the Winter Milky Way is still visible, rising vertically to the right of Jupiter,
click on the image above to view full size cover image

The "Observers Handbook" is one of Canada's oldest scientific publications. This is the 304 page annual guide that is most highly recommended by Company Seven for the novice, or for the experienced observer. This is a very readable, annual publication where the next edition becomes available in late October of each prior year for sale at Company Seven's Laurel, MD showroom. We will also deliver this by mail order to around the world.

This book helps one to plan an observing or astrophotography session well in advance of the date of the event. This book is a valuable resource with tables, formulae, and numerous articles of advice about astronomical objects, optics, human vision. In one simple to use reference you can find out: how many moons does Jupiter have? (and read information about each). How big is the Sun? When will an object be in a good part of the sky to view or image? How to observe? And much more. This is an excellent compliment to an optional star chart, and telescope/observing reference guide book such as "Starware" or "Backyard Astronomer's Guide".

Published annually since 1907 when it first appeared as "The Canadian Astronomical Handbook for 1907", it was created by C.A. Chant (b. 1865, d. 1956), Professor of Astronomy at the University of Toronto. His vision was of "a companion which the observer would wish to have in his pocket or on the table before him". It has been published as "Observers Handbook" since 1911, this has grown to be the most comprehensive yet lightweight and compact publication of it's type with Chant remaining as the Editor until the 1957 edition. The present (and 5th) Editor is Rajiv Gupta who took the helm into the new millennium from Dr. Roy L. Bishop.

Considering it's content, while remaining only 5-1/2 inch wide, 8-1/2 inch tall, and about 1/2 inch thick, this is a remarkably handy and easy to travel with publication. With contributing authors of the various sections being experts in their respective field. The "Observer's Guide" includes includes discussions and drawings of periodic astronomical events that are known to be coming in that year, as well as good coverage of topics and astronomical data including:

  • Introductory Section:
      List of Contributors, How to Use the Book, Cover Photograph Caption, Editors Comments, Information about the RASC, Reporting of Astronomical Discoveries, Visiting Hours at Some Canadian Observatories and Planetaria, Suggestions for Further Reading and Atlases, Selected Index of Internet Web Addresses, Teaching and the Observers Handbook, Terminology and Symbols (Sun, Moon, & Planets, Zodiac Signs; Greek Alphabet), Coordinate Systems, and Terminology.
  • Basic Data:
      Principal Elements of the Solar System (Mean Orbital and Physical), Oscillating Orbital Elements 2004, Heliocentric Osculating Orbital Elements 2004, Satellites of the Planets, Satellites of the Asteroids, Orbital Motion, Some Astronomical and Physical Data, Voyages in our Planetary System, Precession Table for Advancing 50 Years.
  • Time:
      General Introduction: Time and Time Scales, Introduction to the Time Zone Map, Time Zone Map, Time Signals, Mean Sidereal Time, Julian Date, Standard Time Zones, Astronomical Twilight and Siderial Time.
  • Optics & Observing:
      Telescope Parameters: Equations and Performance, Telescope Exit Pupils, Binoculars, Filters, Limiting Magnitudes, Frequency of Nighttime Cloud Cover, Weather Resources on the Internet, Light Pollution - Sky Transparency, Deep Sky Observing Hints, The Observing Logbook.
  • The Sky Month by Month:
      Introduction, Positions and Distances and Magnitudes of the Major Planets Through the Month, Descriptions of the Moon and Major Planets - Where to Find Them and How They Will Appear, A Day to Day Chronology of Astronomical Events (meteor showers, algol, new moon, first quarter moon, full moon, last quarter moon, double transits on Jupiter, oppositions, conjunctions, eclipses, etc.), and Configurations (Appearance/Orientation) of the Four Major Moons of Jupiter.
  • Sun:
      Ephemeris, Sundial Correction, Orientation of the Sun, Solar Activity, Auroral Forms, Times of Sunset and Sunrise, Twilight Table, Midnight Twilight and Midnight Sun.
  • Moon:
      Key to the Map of the Moon, Map of the Moon, Universal Time of New Moon Dates, Times of Moonrise and Moonset, Eclipses, Eclipse Patterns, Viewing a Solar Eclipse - A Warning, Occultations by the Moon (Total and Grazing), Tides and the Earth-Moon system*.
  • Planets and Satellites:
      General Introduction, Planetary Heliocentric Longitudes, Magnitudes of the Naked Eye Planets during the Year, Pronunciation of Planet Names, Diagram of Planetary Configurations Telescopic appearance of the planets, Pronunciation of Satellite Names, Solar System Geometry, Telescopic Appearance of the Planets, Planetary Right Ascension chart, The Planets for The Year an Introduction, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Finder chart for Uranus and Neptune, Finder chart for Pluto, Phenomena of Jupiter's Galilean Satellites, Configurations of Saturn's Brightest Satellites, 2004 Transit of Venus, Weather for the 2004 Transit of Venus.
  • Asteroids:
      Ephemerides for the Brightest Asteroids, Planetary Appulses and Occultations.
  • Meteors, Comets, and Dust:
      Meteors, Fireballs, Radio Detection of Meteors, Meteorite Identification, Meteorite, Impact Craters of North America, Comets in 2004, Observing Comets, Interplanetary Dust.
  • Stars:
      Constellations, Finding List of Some Named Stars, The Brightest Stars, The Nearest Stars, Double and Multiple Stars, Variable Stars, Star Clusters, Amateur Supernova Hunting, Expired Stars.
  • Nebulae:
      Galactic Nebulae, The Messier Catalog, Deep-Sky Observing Hints, The Finest NGC Objects, Deep-Sky Challenge Objects, Dark Nebulae, Galaxies: Brightest and Nearest, The NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), Galaxies with Proper Names, Radio Sources, Variable Galaxies.
  • Maps of the Night Sky:
      Description of maps, January, March, May, July, September, November, The Southern Sky
  • Concluding Section:
      Order form for the next year's Observer's Handbook, Index, Some Holidays and Special Dates for the Year, 2004 and 2005 Calendar.

    * The section of the Observer's Handbook explaining the Tides mentions the record tides in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin. This article instigated travel in June 2004 to Nova Scotia which is documented in the illustrated article "Experiencing Nova Scotia And Its Amazing Tides" written by Martin Cohen, it is available in Company Seven's on line Library.

  • Price $24.00 (U.S.D.); please add $4.00 for domestic postage, or $10.00 for international postage.


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