The gauntlet has been flung

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Do you like seeing new objects when you’re out observing? Well, a wonderful new reference, Cosmic Challenge — The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs (Cambridge University Press, 2011), just arrived on my desk. Written by experienced observer Phil Harrington, this highly illustrated work is a comprehensive guide to 187 observing targets suitable for the naked eye, binoculars, and telescopes.

Cosmic Challenge — The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs, by Phil Harrington (Cambridge University Press, 2011)


For each of the challenges, Harrington (a contributing editor to Astronomy magazine) gives a rating indicating how difficult the object is to find. Some are easy. Some are “Wow” hard. He also includes a detailed visual description, a realistic illustration, and a finder chart that will help you locate each object quickly.

Cosmic Challenge — The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs provides an introductory chapter with lots of great info for new amateur astronomers, and six chapters ranked according to the aperture needed to see the objects within. Chapter 2 is “Naked-eye challenges”; Chapter 3 lists “Binocular challenges”; Chapter 4 has the longest title: “Small-scope challenges: Giant binoculars, 3- to 5-inch telescopes”; Chapter 5 is “Medium-scope challenges: 6- to 9.25-inch telescopes”; Chapter 6 follows with “Large-scope challenges: 10- to 14-inch challenges”; and last but not least is Chapter 7, “Monster-scope challenges: 15-inch and larger telescopes.”

Appendix A lists all the objects with details like season, positions, constellation, magnitude, etc. Appendix B gives Harrington’s suggestions for further reading, and Appendix C is yet another list, “100 challenging double stars.”

Whether you’re just starting out on your optical journey through the universe or you consider yourself a serious observer, you’re going to love this book. As you scan the many targets, you’ll find yourself saying, as I did, “Wow, I didn’t know I could see that with [fill in the blank].”

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