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IMO Nightwatch is indeed the best introduction to amateur astronomy. There is another book that I found extremely helpful, The Stars a New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey (the Curious George guy). This book will teach you the constellations. He doesn't use the traditional figures, but draws new lines between the same stars that actually look like a picture of what the constellation is named after. This makes it much easier to learn the constellations; I used this book to learn them in 3rd grade. Knowing the constellations is essential for finding things to look at with your telescope, as the maps that are detailed enough to star-hop to interesting objects cover a small area of the sky, small enough that it isn't obvious which patch of sky they are representing. If you kow the constellationbs well, you'll know where in the broad expanse of the sky to look for the stars on your map.

Constellation hunting is in itself a rewarding activity. It is nice when you are getting home late in the dead of winter to see the spring constellations telling you that warmth is on the way. It is also fun to try and pick out constellations as soon as possible after sunset; this exercise will greatly improve your familiarity with their arrangement between each other. ..

In the end, learning the night sky is like learning your way around a city you've just moved to: in the beginning, you are constantly using the streetmap, but eventually you can go anywhere in town without a map, and you do a lot more.

Clear Skies!

- Joe
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