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.
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.
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.