Astronomy book reviews

Objects in the Heavens

by Peter Birren
Birren Design
Published by Trafford Publishing
ISBN: 1-55369-662-X

or follow the link Objects in the Heavens if you want more info first (before buying it)

Bookcover Objects in the Heavens


In July 2003 I bought “Objects in the Heavens”, a deep sky viewing list and field book for small scopes and binoculars, by Peter Birren. In the second edition of this book you will 665 deep sky objects, organized by constellation.

The Book

There are some introductory chapters about viewing basics, types of deep sky objects, guidepost constellations, a full constellation list and lots more (see complete list of contents below).

However, the most important part of the book is the list of 665 deep sky objects, organized by constellation. They come from 30 major astronomical catalogues. All the objects are magnitude 10 or brighter, so this is a great observing list for beginners with a small telescope or binoculars.

For every object you will find a lot of useful data like name, type of object, magnitude, size, right ascension and declination, a symbol which indicates if an object is a binocular or a telescopic object, descriptions etc. Objects brighter than magnitude 7 (187 out of 665) are highlighted in the list and the cross-reference. Here are some sample pages (click on the thumbnail to enlarge the picture):

Sample page Objects in the Heavens

sample page 1

Sample page Objects in the Heavens

sample page 2

Sample page 1: On the pages to the left you will find the list, while on the pages to the right you always will find some maps with the location of all the objects, and some space to make notes. In the book there is also an index of all the objects.

Sample page 2: Example of one of the four Seasonal maps with to the left the map and to the right a list with all objects brigther than magnitude 7.

I have been using the book for two nights at the telescope, in combination with the SkyAtlas 2000 field edition by Tirion. It proved to be a good “team” for a beginning observer like me. You can setup your telescope or binoculars, look up the constellation in which you want to do some observing, and there’s your observing list for tonight, ready to use!

That’s the power of this book, especially for beginners, who don’t yet have the experience to make their own observing lists. Get out and observe. Once you’ve located, studied, logged, sketched or just enjoyed your newly “discovered” deep sky object, check it off in the list and move to the next.

Here is a list of the book's contents:

Deep-Sky Object Types
Viewing Basics, Comfort Tips
Symbols; Magnitude
Guideposts; Measurements
Right ascension; Declination
Telescope Types; Filters
Doubles, Seeing and Transparency scales
Planetary data
Meteor showers, dates and detail
Major and Double stars
Full Constellation list
Proper Names
Messier List
Catalog Cross-Reference Index
Seasonal Maps
Details and Organization Table
Object Listings by Constellation
Logbook, Sketching Rings



After using it for two nights I can say that I liked working with this book.

At a first glance it might seem a bit pricey, but if you ever tried to make an observing list with all this data, you will know better. I can recommend this pocketsize, easy to use book, to both the beginning and the casual observer.

I would like to thank Peter Birren for granting me permission to add a few sample-pages to my website.

Copyright © 2003