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A Beginner's Guide to the Visible Sky

by Walter Kraul ; illustrated by Dazze Kamerl ; translated by Christian Maclean

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-178250-046-9
Publisher: Floris

This quirky introduction to the solar system and constellations aims for a broad audience—and scores a clean, complete miss.

With deliberate emphasis on Copernican (i.e., fixed Earth) astronomy, Kraul not only devotes three full chapters to the sun’s “apparent” annual motions and how they are “seen from space,” but describes in tedious detail the angled rising and falling of stars and constellations from various latitudes. He also traces the moon’s movements through the zodiac and the retrograde loops that the “superior” and “inferior” planets seem to make to earthly observers. Some of the illustrations are photographs, but more are small watercolor sky scenes that are hard to read despite the removal of extraneous stars and other details such as the names of zodiacal signs (though the symbols for each remain). Instructions for constructing a planisphere and a lunarium from card stock offer no advice for using either at night. The text is plagued by several copy editing (or possibly translation) errors and is prone to opaque or poorly phrased statements (“All the stars in the course of their daily movement culminate as they pass through the meridian”). Furthermore, the author makes a true but possibly misleading claim that seasons “are connected to the Sun’s position in the zodiac” and errs outright in claiming that if the Earth did not rotate, one side would always be light and the other dark.

Even veteran stargazers won’t find much value in the oddball approach, and for younger ones, more cogent, readable print and digital aids abound.

(index, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)