The very favorite job I've ever had at Sky Publishing was writing the Constellation Close-Up column for Night Sky magazine. Each one described a constellation, its associated star lore, and anything else that took my fancy. For the first and probably last time in my life, I got to combine the three disciplines I majored in at college: folklore and mythology, mathematics, and English.

Sky & Telescope

Much to my (and many other peoples') sorrow, Night Sky ceased publication 3 years ago. But although the magazine was never a commercial success, the articles in its 18 slender issues have proved to be immortal. In them, we explained all the essentials of astronomy in terms that any beginner can understand. Having written it once to our perfect satisfaction, why write it again in different words? Many of the articles on this website were adapted from Night Sky. We've often re-run them in SkyWatch, our annual publication. And now all the Constellation Close-Up articles have been gathered into a magazine called Popular Astronomy, which may be selling right now at your local newsstand. If not, you can purchase copies from our online store.

The most useful feature of Popular Astronomy is the pairs of matching sky maps. Click above for a larger image.

Sky & Telescope

Why would you want to read it? Much as I love those Constellation Close-Up articles, they're not the main attraction. To my mind, by far the most useful thing about this magazine is its pairs of matching sky maps — two per month for each of the 12 months. The right-hand page shows the sky with bright stars against a dark background, just as you see it in real life. And the facing page has a labeled version of the same map printed in black on white for clarity. Click here to see what they look like at a reasonably large scale. This idea was pioneered, or at least popularized, by the superb book NightWatch, but NightWatch only has one map pair per season, not one per month, like Popular Astronomy.

We used these same map pairs in SkyWatch in 2008 and 2009, and they proved to be immensely popular. But SkyWatch has always been an ambitious magazine, packed full of information, and devoting two pages of maps to each month simply crowded out too much other information. So if you want this format now, Popular Astronomy is your only option. The only downside is that the ones in Popular Astronomy don't show the planets. The planets change from year to year, and we want this publication to be timeless.

Thanks to S&T contributing editor Gary Seronik and ex-S&T artist Ellen Rooney for their mighty labors in assembling and laying out this magazine in record time.


Image of Noel Muller

Noel Muller

September 1, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Editorial Staff,
My payment would have been made instantly had this also been available in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHER 'Sky Maps'. It is quite amazing how hard it is to get SKY MAPS for DOWN UNDER. They are there but are very hard to get and the SKY & TELESCOPE (AUSTRALIA) does a brilliant job but nothing like you are offering for the North of the Line. Noel

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September 1, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I picked up a couple Night Sky issues in its short life and would love to see the whole run digitized to CD or DVD and made available.

Please, encourage whomever still owns the rights to do this service to those of us who loved Night Sky!

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September 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I recently received my last Sky & Telescope via subscription and will do with reading the library's copy until proper digital version becomes available for purchase. An announcement of a new print-only product from S&T just hits a hollow note for many.

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Paul Goodwin

September 3, 2010 at 11:37 am

I bought 2 copies of the Night Sky magazine while it was being published. One copy I pulled apart and put into document protectors, inside of a 3-ring binder. That way I could categorize the articles.

Now I'm also requesting that you publish the Night Sky magazine back-copies onto a DVD - so that I can access the articles and charts on my computer or television.

Thanks in advance.

Paul Goodwin

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John Isles

September 3, 2010 at 11:44 am

I do not need more digitization. I have more than enough online or on discs already that I don't have time to read, and it's all trapped inside my computer screen. Give me books and maps that I can carry about, spread around, and consult under the stars with a dim red flashlight, please.

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Tony Flanders

September 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I agree that it would be very nice to have the collected Night Sky on DVD or CD-ROM, especially since some of the issues are now completely out of stock in paper. I think there's a fair chance that this might happen, though nobody has seriously tried to explore the subject yet.

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Image of Al


September 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I'd like to enthusiastically second Noel Muller's
request for Southern Hemisphere sky map content!

Coqueiral de Aracruz

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Enrico The Great

September 13, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Yup, Kudos to Mr. John Isles. Digitization is OK, BUT I don't want print to go away either, I wanna get away from my computer once in awhile!!!!! SO THERE RAY!!!!!!

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