The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series

The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion

Explaining the Cycles of the Night Sky

Authors: Ford, Dominic

  • The first almanac that not only tabulates positions but also explains the orbital mechanics that dictate how the planets and stars move as observed from Earth
  • Equips readers with an authoritative point of reference for complete lists of celestial events of interest to amateur astronomers for many years
  • Assists in planning observing sessions, local society events or ‘sky diary’ talks, by providing a long-term forecast of which celestial events will be the best or most dramatic
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  • ISBN 978-1-4939-0629-1
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  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Softcover $34.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-4939-0628-4
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  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Rent the ebook  
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About this book

To the naked eye, the most evident defining feature of the planets is their motion across the night sky. It was this motion that allowed ancient civilizations to single them out as different from fixed stars. “The Observer’s Guide to Planetary Motion” takes each planet and its moons (if it has them) in turn and describes how the geometry of the Solar System gives rise to its observed motions.

Although the motions of the planets may be described as simple elliptical orbits around the Sun, we have to observe them from a particular vantage point: the Earth, which spins daily on its axis and circles around the Sun each year. The motions of the planets as observed relative to this spinning observatory take on more complicated patterns. Periodically, objects become prominent in the night sky for a few weeks or months, while at other times they pass too close to the Sun to be observed. “The Observer’s Guide to Planetary Motion” provides accurate tables of the best time for observing each planet, together with other notable events in their orbits, helping amateur astronomers plan when and what to observe. Uniquely each of the chapters includes extensive explanatory text, relating the events listed to the physical geometry of the Solar System.

Along the way, many questions are answered: Why does Mars take over two years between apparitions (the times when it is visible from Earth) in the night sky, while Uranus and Neptune take almost exactly a year? Why do planets appear higher in the night sky when they’re visible in the winter months? Why do Saturn’s rings appear to open and close every 15 years? This book places seemingly disparate astronomical events into an understandable three-dimensional  structure, enabling an appreciation that, for example, very good apparitions of Mars come around roughly every 15 years and that those in 2018 and 2035 will be nearly as good as that seen in 2003.

Events are listed for the time period 2010-2030 and in the case of rarer events (such as eclipses and apparitions of Mars) even longer time periods are covered. A short closing chapter describes the seasonal appearance of deep sky objects, which follow an annual cycle as a result of Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun.

About the authors

Dr. Dominic Ford is an experienced observer of the night sky and a regular contributor to the ‘Journal of the British Astronomical Association.’ He obtained his MSc in Physics from the University of Cambridge (UK) in 2003 and a doctorate in Astrophysics (also from Cambridge) in 2008. He is a member of the Council of the British Astronomical Association, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a Trustee of the British Astronomical Association (as of August 2011). Dominic has written 58 meeting reports for ‘The Journal of the British Astronomical Association’ over the past ten years and is a regular monthly contributor to ‘the Naked Astronomy’ podcast. Currently he is employed as a post-doctoral Research Associate working on the Square Kilometre Array in the Astrophysics Group, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge.

Reviews

From the book reviews:

“This concise little primer … takes a refreshing pragmatic approach to understanding the motions that any casual observer of the night sky will eventually notice. …  The book also contains some very useful tables listing several decades of lunar phases, eclipses, planetary transits, planetary configurations, etc. That alone makes it a reference well worth having long after the basics have been mastered. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.” (T. D. Oswalt, Choice, Vol. 52 (6), February, 2015)

Table of contents (10 chapters)

Buy this book

eBook $24.99
price for USA (gross)
  • ISBN 978-1-4939-0629-1
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
  • Immediate eBook download after purchase
Softcover $34.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-1-4939-0628-4
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Usually dispatched within 3 to 5 business days.
Rent the ebook  
  • Rental duration: 1 or 6 month
  • low-cost access
  • online reader with highlighting and note-making option
  • can be used across all devices
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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
The Observer's Guide to Planetary Motion
Book Subtitle
Explaining the Cycles of the Night Sky
Authors
Series Title
The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series
Copyright
2014
Publisher
Springer-Verlag New York
Copyright Holder
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
eBook ISBN
978-1-4939-0629-1
DOI
10.1007/978-1-4939-0629-1
Softcover ISBN
978-1-4939-0628-4
Series ISSN
1431-9756
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XIII, 240
Number of Illustrations and Tables
51 b/w illustrations, 25 illustrations in colour
Topics