Passion drives us to do things beyond mere instinctive survival. Varied and distinct, these pastimes can absorb hours and days. The night sky beckons many even though, or perhaps, because they will never be able to visit. Stephen James O’Meara’s book “Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars, A Beginner’s Guide to the Sun, Moon, and Planets” is testament to one man’s affliction with the shapes and colours that continually transcend the velvet backdrop of space. Through his passion, the book draws the reader into an ever changing, lively night time display.
The book’s title and subtitle succinctly frame the book’s contents. Between the covers, the reader will learn of methods to accurately and safely see features of our solar system. Whether sunspots on the Sun, mares on the Moon or fireballs from nowhere, there are subjects galore to entice the beginner to spend just another five minutes looking upwards. In addition, the book details both methods and tricks to get the most out of the time spent viewing. In particular though, it lists distinguishing characteristics of the subject whether colour, shape or sound. A diamond ring from an eclipse, a crescent of Venus or a sword slicing as from a comet are just some of the many vibrant distinctions brought to the reader’s attention throughout this book.
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While the descriptions and facts should ably answer the many questions of the beginner, the book’s anecdotal passages make this publication shine. The author shares his passion through selections describing his emotions such as ‘I saw the spirit of the fireball dancing on its grave’ when describing an aerial explosion. The mood is continually heightened such a Tolstoy character who in ‘rapture and his eyes wet with tears, contemplated the radiant stare’ for the comet of 1812 or Agesinax’s ‘all round about environed with fire she is illumined’ to describe the Moon. These historical connections and the many references to ongoing research tells the reader that they share the wonder of the grandeur and complexity of Earth’s immediate neighbourhood.
A passion to explore the night sky burns in the hearts of many. Not knowing where to start or how to share this longing is no impediment. With bare eye or inexpensive binoculars, Stephen James O’Meara’s book “Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars” will guide you to satisfy your feelings.
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Written by Mark Mortimer