Book Thoughts: Nightwatch

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe is a 2006 introductory guide to astronomy by Terence Dickinson. I have the fourth edition, but there is a newer fifth edition available. This was actually a book assigned to me for an astronomy class in college, but it was not really a textbook. There was no rigorous study of science in this book. It was easy reading, made to teach the average person how to get into stargazing. Because of that, it was my only class book that I read all the way through with ease. With most school books I had to read and re-read chapters over and over for the content to settle in, not this book. It reminded me very much of the many library books about space that I borrowed as a kid.

NightWatch consisted of thirteen chapters and an index. The book had a flow that went from absolute beginner all the way to experienced hobbyist. The first two chapters simply described what space is. Another chapter explained the three levels of dedication in amateur astronomy: naked-eye viewing, binocular viewing, and telescope viewing. From there the book went into how a person would pursue each of those levels of dedication. Each successive level requires more experience and comes with more expense. The majority of the book was devoted to the various objects that can be seen with a telescope. Finally, a few chapters at the end covered photographing stars, southern hemisphere stars, and resources for more information.

The astronomy class I took was only one credit. We all needed one extra credit due to a change in requirements as we neared completion of our degrees. The professor probably knew this but still wanted us to get something out of the class. He seemed to have the same stance as the the book’s author. The book was written to really get the reader excited about the mysteries of space and astronomy. At the time I was taking the class, I enjoyed it, but I was too busy to get into astronomy. Now I like the idea but have other priorities. It does sound like it would be fun someday.

NightWatch was fun to read again. I plan to keep it in case I want to get into astronomy. There will be newer editions by then, but it will still be a pretty good book for the basics. For specifics, I can probably find enough good online resources. While reading the book, I was in awe of God’s creation. He has really created a marvel in the universe. It’s amazing how much scientists have discovered mostly just from viewing the stars from Earth. They have a pretty good idea of what the overall space looks like. Just like God, space is infinite. Also like God, space is full of mystery.

Is planet Earth the only place in the universe with intelligent life? Why did God create all these things if Earth is the only place? I have my theories. If there isn’t any intelligent life anywhere but Earth, I think it’s to prove to us that we are very special to God. He created this vast universe, all the forces working perfectly to create this one life-bearing planet. If that is the case, it also means we have nowhere else to go if something happens to Earth.

I’m not sure if global warming is real or even caused by humans, but I always try to do my part not to waste resources. Even if not for the planet itself, reducing waste helps fellow humans. They always talk about how much food is wasted by Americans every year, so I try my best to eat all the food I get. At restaurants I always take home leftovers. I try to recycle things I no longer need. While climate scientists and government have more responsibility here, I do not. I am just called to do my part in my own life.


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