“ Astronomy magazine „
Sky at Night magazine is a companion publication to the very successful BBC 2 series hosted by Sir Patrick Moore and Dr Chris Lintott. The TV programme is the longest running series in the world, and Sir Patrick has only missed one episode of the programme since it launched in 1957. The magazine was launched four years ago and has been quite successful in further promoting astronomy as a hobby.
Part of the reason for the magazine's success is that both Sir Patrick and Chris Lintott, both successful authors as well as presenters, make significant contributions to each issue. In my opinion, the other main reason for the success is that, as a BBC publication, the magazine is able to draw upon the programmes archives. Each magazine is accompanied by a CD-ROM that contains recent full episodes from the series, and sometimes historical ones, too.
The magazine is aimed at the beginner to intermediate level, amateur astronomer. For the beginner, there's articles on the basics of astronomy (such as how to set up a telescope), together with guides on how to observe. For more advanced amateurs, there are in-depth articles on topics such as astrophotography.
For me, the most impressive thing about the magazine is the photography. The BBC is able to get hold of the best images from the world's largest telescopes (such as Hubble). These can be shown as a full or even two page image and are incredibly impressive. Each issue of the magazine has stunning images like these.
The magazine itself is divided into three sections, regulars, features, and a guide to the night sky. Regular topics include articles by Sir Patrick and Chris, a very comprehensive news section with full coverage of recent events, as well as monthly reviews of astronomical kit. These can include side by side comparisons of binoculars or telescopes, for example. There's also a glossary of astronomical terms for the beginner to refer to (I find it annoying when an article assumes I know what a word or phrase means).
The features section presents more in-depth articles. These are, of course, lavishly illustrated with diagrams explaining the text, and more of those wonderful photographs.
Quite advanced and up to date topics are tackled here. Recently, a four page article detailed Stephen Hawking's latest theory on the evolution of the universe. Luckily, despite the mathematical nature of the theory, the article was written in a readable, non-mathematical way, that anyone could understand. The feature articles are a real asset for the magazine. I find I can sit down and read all of them in one sitting (of about an hour).
The guide to the night sky has maps showing what the sky will look like over the coming month (as the Earth moves around the sun, the constellation visible during the night changes over the course of the year).
This section shows where all the planets can be found, and features different astronomical objects to look for using naked eye, binoculars, as well as small and large telescopes. It can be quite satisfying using the sky maps and tracking down the object shown in the magazine. This is a great resource for the amateur.
There are many different objects that can be viewed from your back garden. Whilst you won't see them in the detail shown by the Hubble Space Telescope, it can be awe inspiring to realise that the fuzzy oval you're looking at through binoculars, is over 2 million light years away (the Andromeda galaxy), and that the light you're seeing left Andromeda before the human race began!
Hopefully, you will have realised from my review that I'm seriously impressed with the Sky at Night Magazine. I think it balances the needs of the beginner and the more advanced amateur perfectly. The wonders of the night sky are showcased by some brilliant writers and awesome photographs.
Anyone with an interest in the night sky should consider a subscription. Anyone else picking up the magazine will probably find something of interest in here even if they're not keen on astronomy. Highly recommended.
The magazine costs £4.25 per issue; a typical magazine price. Buying on subscription, however, can bring the price down significantly. Currently there's an offer of 12 issues for £40.80, giving an issue price of £3.40.
Many people will be familiar with the "Sky At Night" TV program presented by Patrick Moore on BBC. What you may or may not know is that there is a monthly "Sky At Night" (SAN) magazine. If you like the TV program then you'll love this. The SAN magazine claims to be "The world's only monthly astronomy magazine + CD". It should be noted that this means the only one that comes with a CD each month and not just the magazine.
In The Magazine:
The magazine is a must-have for any amateur astronomer. It's full of information that explores the past, present and future of astronomy, as well as reviews on equipment, a guide to this month's night sky and interviews with people from all walks of life who have influence within the astronomical community. There are various segments to the magazine. These include but are not limited to:
Eye On The Sky - Images of the universe taken from the world's most powerful telescopes
Feature Story - An in-depth look at various things (for example, the October 2007 issue looks at "50 Pivotal Moments in the space age"
Fame File - Section interviewing famous people such as Sergei Korolev, the man who masterminded the launch of Sputnik 1
Highdown - Section about various sites in the world such as planetariums.
Beginners' Guide - What it says on the tin really. If you're new to astronomy or even to a specific are such as astro-imaging or viewing the sun, this will give you guides to various things such as these to help you get a good grounding knowledge.
Patrick Moore - Writes about a current astronomical issue each month
News - .....The news (about astronomy of course)
Inbox - Letters and emails from readers and visitors to the SAN magazine website
Hotshots - Images taken by readers of the magazine. If you manage to get the hotshot of the month, you win a prise (usually telescope equipment).
Astro Answers - Any question sent in by a reader about anything related to astronomy answered.
How-To - Guides to various techniques such as star-gazing conditions.
What's On And Society News - Section about various events and meetings taking place within the astronomical community around the UK and further afield .
Reviews - Reviews on equipment or events.
The Sky In (Month) - An in-depth look at what to look out for in the coming month based on the equipment you have i.e. there is a section for those with binoculars, a small telescope, a large telescope or even just the naked eye.
On The CD:
The CD that comes with the magazine is really just an addition to the magazine itself that is presented in a different media. Each CD contains the previous month's episode of the Sky At Night TV program, as well as extra episodes made for the CD or only shown on BBC4 for example. It is a great addition to the magazine and is made to be viewed on a computer. by doing this, you can also keep the images and use various desktop background wallpapers. The CD contains the following:
The Sky At Night TV Program - The episode that aired the previous month on BBC2.
Virtual Planetarium - An excellent feature that is similar to the night sky guide from the magazine. The difference being that this is narrated by Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. The chart on screen will rotate and focus on specific areas while Patrick and Chris tell you what to look for that month in that part of the sky.
Eye On The Sky - More images of the universe from the world's most powerful telescope (all from the magazine and some that are exclusive to the CD)
Hotshots - Images sent in by readers
Bonus Content - Different each month but usually includes audio from written interviews in the magazines or exclusive video interviews. They interview some quite famous people including Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Myleen Klass and Brian May. Who knows who they'll have in the future?!
Glossary Database - A "Jargon-Buster" for any terminology used in the magazine or on the CD
Get Connected - Links to a wealth of astronomical resources
All in all, the Sky At Night magazine is an excellent monthly read for anyone who is into astronomy or just starting. IF you like the TV program then you'll like this. It is well written by experts on all subjects astronomical and will greatly help any amateur astronomer wanting to expand their knowledge of this great subject. At the time of writing this (October 2007) the magazine costs £4.25 per month. You can subscribe to the magazine in 3 month or 12 month instalments which saves you about 25% and you sometimes receive a free gift for doing so. I myself have subscribed for 2 years now and have received Patrick Moore's autobiography and the book "Bang" written by Patrick Moore, Chris Lintott and Brian May (Yes, the guy from Queen) both for free.