By Tim Hunter
University of Arizona Press
If you want a quick reference to the most observable objects in the sky, Tim Hunter’s “The Sky at Night” is for you. If you want some information about the brightest stars, the phases of the moon, and the most recognizable constellations, the book is for you. If you’re wondering what a medical doctor does in his spare time, Dr. Hunter’s book takes you on a tour of what he calls his “heavenly hobby.”
It is, at once, easy to read and yet filled with just enough facts and background to certainly satisfy a wide range of stargazers, from beginners to full-fledged enthusiasts.
“The Sky at Night” is a compilation of some 750 weekly “Sky Spy” columns first published in the Caliente section of the Arizona Daily Star. Ten chapters cover such topics as the moon, stars, constellations, famous astronomers and tips for purchasing one’s first telescope. A glossary of basic astronomy terms is also provided, as is a resource list. Most importantly, it is written for the backyard observer, for someone who just wants a bit of direction, some fundamental detail, and to simply look up with their own eyes and admire the night sky.
Some of us struggle, at times, to find a passion, the drive to learn about, and delve into, an activity that provides fulfillment and enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment. For Dr. Hunter, a career in the University of Arizona’s Radiology Department has been coupled with a lifelong yearning to explore the sky.
During a phone call with the author, I asked him about what I consider to be among the most beautiful objects to observe with the naked eyes, the Pleiades. His answer was completely aligned with his book. “For me,” Dr. Hunter replied, “I always want to see how many individual stars I can see. It’s called the Seven Sisters, but I often can only see six.”
As he writes in the book, astronomy is for everyone. “Anyone,” he continued, “can love and enjoy the sky.” That’s what comes through on every page. The sky offers something for all of us to admire. It’s up to each person to determine what they want and what they expect from their observations.
Amateur astronomy is for those, Dr. Hunter said, who see in the sky a friend. It’s for those who, in a few moments of observation, realize that their backyard viewing – very often without binoculars or telescopes – can be so much better than a photograph.
As part of his love of astronomy, Dr. Hunter co-founded the International Dark Sky Association in 1987. Its purpose is to limit the effects of light pollution through the use of quality, properly installed lighting. He remains committed to this goal.
For beginners, as well as those who have spent many hours under the stars, “The Sky at Night” is a wonderful tool to enhance one’s understanding and sense of wonder in the countless points of light filling the sky.
“The Sky at Night” is available for purchase at uapress.arizona.edu/book/the-sky-at-night