Astronomy opens a door to the universe, but it comes with new things to learn. There is the jargon to understand and the equipment to get to know. In this article, we list 10 best books to learn astronomy (including free downloads) to speed up your induction into this fascinating activity and unique perspective.
This list of books is for anyone keen to spot objects in the sky and get an understanding of space and the universe as well as improving knowledge on those astronomical instruments they may have purchased.
Best books to learn astronomy – Practical guides
As a newbie to backyard astronomy, you’ll want to understand the practical side of things more than the theory, right? The following books can help you speed-up your understanding in this department. Especially, if you coincide the things you read with observations of the night sky using your binoculars or home telescope, and with star maps or a sky atlas, you will get to know more sooner.
Those listed below also offer information on what you can expect to see from Earth, which galaxy or star clusters you’re likely to spot, the different constellations, whether you can see Pluto, the rings of Saturn, and more.
Nightwatch: a practical guide to viewing the universe
A top-selling stargazing guide globally for the last two decades, this book is updated every few years with relevant star charts and illustrations, making it hugely popular. As well, if you are interested in astrophotography, you’ll find useful information in this book. It also has an equipment section that includes computerized telescopes.
Among the great practical information, this book has a chapter on viewing the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere, said to be one of the best locations to view the night sky.
You can buy this spiral-bound astronomy book by Terence Dickinson at Amazon – See reviews here. The spiral binding means it is perfect for using outdoors as you can refer to it while observing the sky and so get a better understanding of night sky objects.
The author is a recipient of several national and international science awards.
Also by Terence Dickinson with Alan Dyer as co-author…
Backyard Astronomer’s Guide
Another great book with the same writer as co-author. From it, you should learn, not only about objects in space but also about telescopes and the astronomical gear to get the best out of viewing the Solar System and beyond.
This book is available at Amazon – See the reviews.
If you are on a tight budget, maybe choose one or the other of these two books as they do cover similar information. Both have rave reviews, are popular and informative, but of the two, NightWatch is hard-spiral and less expensive.
Astronomy Hacks: Tips and Tools for Observing the Night Sky
This book by Robert Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson covers tips on observing, maintaining or improving gear, and getting the best from your experience as an amateur astronomer.
It offers pearls of advice on the art of telescope and astronomical hardware use. It has an equipment section and one chapter alone focuses on the Dobsonian telescope, a design considered to be one of the best for beginners.
An example tip in this book…
“If you use DEET, particularly in high concentration, be careful with it around plastic, including plastic eyeglass lenses. DEET dissolves plastic.”
This exemplifies the hints in this book on simple things that are not always obvious to a newbie but which can save you from dissatisfaction in your outdoor experience.
The collection of knowledge in this book should help you accelerate your knowledge of astronomy and the use of your telescope, astronomy binoculars, or other hardware you’re keen on using for stargazing or planet viewing.
It is also available at Amazon – See the reviews.
Turn Left at Orion
The next one in this list of best books to learn astronomy is also spiral-bound, this time written by Guy Consolmagno.
This is a guide to the night sky with a spread that covers object-by-object to show you how deep-sky objects and planets look in real terms through a small telescope. Yes, it has illustrations.
If you have a Dobsonian or intend on buying one, this is a relevant reference book for you, as it was designed for use with Dobsonian telescopes.
It is available at Amazon – See reviews.
Best books to learn astronomy – PDF versions
These are more for those interested in studying or understanding the concepts or more the theory side of astronomy. Check out Stuvera.com for access to PDF astronomy books. Some are free to download, others require membership.
Among the list of astronomy books you will find…
Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology: An Introduction 2nd ed. 2015 Edition by Peter Schneider
This book is suited to introductory university students or those wanting to study astronomy and astrophysics more so than the use of telescopes and similar home equipment.
Encyclopedia Of Space And Astronomy (Science Encyclopedia)
This authoritative reference presents the main concepts, terms, resources, and important identities in astronomy.
If you are looking for a book covering jargon and terms in astronomy, this might be it…
Dictionary of Geophysics, Astrophysics, and Astronomy (Comprehensive Dictionary of Physics) 1st Edition is a lexicon of terms covering astronomy, but also astrophysics, cosmology, and more.
A Companion to Astronomy and Astrophysics
This is a reference book that comprehensively covers the basic concepts in astronomy and astrophysics.
Astronomy, Astrophysics, & Cosmology Volume 1 – Hughes
This presents knowledge from the new era in cosmology with the significant changes over the years as a result of discovery and more precision measurement.
Astrophysics for Physicists 1st Edition
This book is more for undergraduate or beginning graduate physics students.