Those seeking out an ideal gift for the astronomy lover in your life need look no further than the sizable heft and heavenly imagery of "Stargazer's Atlas: The Ultimate Guide to the Night Sky."
Created by an ensemble team of National Geographic experts alongside the orchestration efforts of Andrew Fazekas, a.k.a. The Night Sky Guy, the gorgeous new coffee-table book is not only a utilitarian guide to the heavens, but also a treasure trove of 170 detailed charts, historical photos, space mission images and mind-boggling maps of the planets and moons of our solar system.
This oversized, 432-page hardcover tips the scales at 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) and is packed with glossy photographs and informative explanations that lure you out into the chilly nocturnal air to gaze up in awe at the cosmos.
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Nat Geo's handsome volume won't be collecting dust on a shelf; it will become a cherished reference tool to navigate the night sky and meet all the denizens of our vast galactic home.
Fazekas has been writing stargazing articles for National Geographic for 13 years. Here he has melded a prestigious constellation guide for the average layperson with the depth that hardcore astronomers and space enthusiasts of all ages can also enjoy.
"This is an atlas at heart and National Geographic came to me to help dream up what this book should include," Fazekas told Space.com in an interview. "Very early on we realized that this is basically a comprehensive, A-Z review of humanity's connection to the night sky, past, present and future, and how intricate that connection is. It goes way beyond what a traditional atlas would be. The science goes into archaeoastronomy, astrotourism, space missions and that kind of stuff. I thought we should dive into the expertise that Nat Geo has and we tapped into these writers that could really dig into some other accompanying topics.”
Fazekas' specialty is observing the limitless beauty of the heavens, so the book is all about encouraging people to get excited about being under the stars.
"Anytime when you deal with topics related to space, science, the universe or exploration, today it can become very overwhelming quickly," Fazekas said. "Online, we're inundated like never before with astronomy news. It's everywhere and that’s thanks to the digital age we live in. And it's kind of ironic because most humans live in cosmopolitan areas and are disconnected from nature more than ever before. There's a firehose of information out there so it can be daunting."
Fazekas has been a practicing amateur astronomer since his childhood, learning from his mentors in the local astronomy club. Now, he's watching in real time as astronomy missions send home data like the stunning first images from the James Webb Space Telescope.
"It's incredible what the average Earthling can have access to, so when we were creating this book, we wanted to make it digestible in bits and pieces," he said. "We wanted the maps to be relatable. These are destinations. I think we're transitioning as a society where people are going to need to know space and astronomical jargon and lingo. It's becoming part of our lives."
He sees the opportunities as endless.
"Humans are going to be living and working in space and we're seeing the beginnings of space tourism," he said. "We're talking about going to the south pole of the moon and setting up shop there before moving on to Mars. We're looking at the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn as possible destinations where there might be life. This is where our future lies! This book is a guide to make sure people explore these worlds and see them as not just dots in the sky. That was the inspiration for the maps and little sidebar tidbits and factoids to absorb."
The night sky is Fazekas' passion and he loves to share that wonder with people to allow them to appreciate what’s out there and this new atlas gets that job done.
"We’re so much more than this spaceship we call Earth that's floating around in the Milky Way," he said. "When I was younger going hunting, fishing and camping with my dad, we spent an enormous amount of time in far-off places with no light pollution. One of the things he taught me is that the night sky is part of nature. Those stars up there, that Milky Way band, and the universe beyond are also part of the natural world. There's a disconnect that most people don’t really consider."
National Geographic’s "Stargazer's Atlas: The Ultimate Guide to the Night Sky" is out now. Personalized and dedicated copies are available from The Night Sky Guy's website.