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Best Astronomy Books for Beginners [Top 14 Picks in 2020]

Sandy Fargus

Last updated: November 16, 2020

Best Astronomy Books for Beginners

Astronomy is a subject that lends itself wonderfully to books. The beautiful images of the night sky can be hypnotic, which can make picking a place to start rather challenging. To help you out, we’ve curated this selection of books, which are ideal for beginners looking to become amateur astronomers. Our top pick is NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe because if you want to get out looking at the stars, this is the best book to get you started.

Our Top Picks
Best Overall
NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
Best Pictures of Space
Hello, Is This Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station
Budget Option
100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing
Name
NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
Hello, Is This Planet Earth?
100 Things to See in the Night Sky
Features
This ring-bound book has everything a beginner needs to help them get out in their backyard to observe the night sky.
This book is filled with pictures of Earth taken from the International Space Station.
This field guide will help you start stargazing like a pro even without a telescope; it's perfect for beginners.
Best Overall
Our Top Picks
NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
Name
NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
Features
This ring-bound book has everything a beginner needs to help them get out in their backyard to observe the night sky.
More info
Best Pictures of Space
Our Top Picks
Hello, Is This Planet Earth?: My View from the International Space Station
Name
Hello, Is This Planet Earth?
Features
This book is filled with pictures of Earth taken from the International Space Station.
More info
Budget Option
Our Top Picks
100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing
Name
100 Things to See in the Night Sky
Features
This field guide will help you start stargazing like a pro even without a telescope; it's perfect for beginners.
More info

Related post: Best Telescope for Beginners [Top Picks in 2020]

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Best Introductory Astronomy Books for Beginners

Best Overall –  NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

Best Overall
NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
This ring-bound book has everything a beginner needs to help them get out in their backyard to observe the night sky.

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe is a book that has proven to be so popular over the years that it has been through multiple editions. The most recent one has sky charts to help you plan your observations up until 2025.

This is the perfect book for anyone who is starting out in astronomy. It gently guides you through everything that you need to know. It starts with how to choose a telescope and guides you through finding the objects you want in the night sky.

It’s a ring-bound book, which is a wonderful decision for a book like this. It makes it really easy to use while you are sitting with your telescope.

If you’ve been interested in astronomy but unsure how to begin, then this is an ideal book. This book is written in clear and simple language that is accessible to most ten-year-olds. It’s also interesting and detailed enough that it is the perfect guide for adults as well.

Best Pictures of Space, From Space – Hello, Is This Planet Earth? My View from the International Space Station

Best Pictures of Space
Hello, Is This Planet Earth?
This book is filled with pictures of Earth taken from the International Space Station.

Hello, Is This Planet Earth? My View from the International Space Station is filled with pictures that astronaut Tim Peake took while he was stationed on the International Space Station. The majority of the book is filled with these amazing pictures of the planet. Each comes with only a small caption or quote. The pictures really do all the talking here.

This book is great for anyone with interest in space and our planet. The short caption style means that this is a great coffee table book. It’s one you can pick up and flick through quite happily.

As well as the pictures, there is a fascinating introduction. It’s here that you can learn more about how the pictures were taken. Tim discusses the challenges of taking pictures with nothing more than an SLR camera while floating in space. It’s a fascinating read.

Budget Option – 100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing

Sale
Best Budget Option
100 Things to See in the Night Sky
This field guide will help you start stargazing like a pro even without a telescope; it's perfect for beginners.

100 Things to See in the Night Sky: From Planets and Satellites to Meteors and Constellations, Your Guide to Stargazing is a fantastically written book that will help anyone find their footing with astronomy. It guides you through everything you need to know to be able to look up at the sky and find something to point out.

The book focuses on helping you find objects that you can see with the naked sky. This includes well-known constellations, stars, and asterisms. It goes on to teach you how to spot more elusive objects like meteor showers and passing satellites.

You should be able to find most of the items in this book no matter where you live. You don’t need a dark sky, and you don’t need a telescope.

This is a great introductory book because it makes astronomy feel accessible. Once you can look up at the night sky and reliably find 5/10 objects, you suddenly feel like you can find more. It stops being such a daunting hobby.

Best Astronomy Books For Kids

Best Introduction to Space – Little Kids First Big Book of Space

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Best Intro to Space
Little Kids First Big Book of Space
This easy to read book introduces kids to the objects in our own solar system as well as some of the more exotic objects found in deep space.

The Little Kids First Big Book of Space is a great book for introducing kids to the wonders of space. The book is well written and accessible. The language is at a level that makes it easy to follow even for weaker readers.

The illustrations and images really make this book come alive. If you’re hoping to kindle a love for space in a child, then this is a great way to do it. By reading the book, you can learn all about objects in the sky, ranging from planets to black holes.

This book is suited to kids aged 4-8. It’s a good first reader. It’s also a good book to read aloud with your child. There are loads to look at and talk about as you read through the book.

Best for Preschoolers – Touch the Brightest Star

Best for Preschoolers
Touch the Brightest Star
This is a wonderful bedtime storybook for toddlers that introduces them to the beauty of the night sky while lulling them to sleep.

You can never start too early with introducing kids to the joys of science and space. Touch the Brightest Star is a magical and whimsical book for doing just that.

Each page asks your child to perform an action and then turn the page to see what’s happened. As you turn the pages, the night sky gets darker, the world goes to sleep, and the constellations come out. You’ll be able to introduce your little ones to the big and little dipper with this book.

The book is enchanting, sweet, and calming. Perfect for a bedtime story.

It’s also a wonderful book for teaching children that the night isn’t scary. In fact, it’s filled with wonder and beauty, and it’s worth looking up at the night sky to find the magic.

Best Children’s Book Written By An Astronaut – The Darkest Dark

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Best Children's Book
The Darkest Dark
This is an early reader book written by and about a real-life astronaut.

The Darkest Dark is a lovely story from Chris Hadfield, a former astronaut. It’s beautifully illustrated and a perfect early reading book for kids aged 4 -8.

The book tells the story of how Chris used to be scared of the dark, even though he dreamed of traveling to the moon. The story lets you journey with him as he learns to overcome his fear in order to fulfil his dreams.

It’s an inspiring story on its own. The fact that it’s a true story written by a man who has flown three space missions and taken command of the ISS just makes it all the more special. You can learn more about his experiences at the back of the book as a wonderful bonus.

This is a great book to read aloud with your kids. I heartily recommend this for kids who are afraid of the dark. It might help them learn to love the dark a little more.

Best Book for Learning to Find Stars In The Sky – Exploring Constellations

Best Book About Constellations
Exploring Constellations
This is a great book that helps kids ages 6-9 find constellations in the night sky.

Exploring Constellations is a great book for helping kids actually find constellations in the sky. It’s well thought out and tackles the changing night sky in a really accessible way.

The book explores how the sky looks in different seasons. This helps kids see the night sky as a whole. When you just learn one constellation at a time, it’s hard to see how they fit together. With this, your child will soon be pointing out constellation after constellation to you.

As well as helping your child learn to find the stars in the night sky, this book will teach them about it as well. This book is well written for children. At the same time, it’s not afraid to teach them the correct terminology. When complicated terms are introduced, the book does a great job of explaining them in an accessible way.

Best for Learning the History of Astrophotography – Hubble Deep Field: How a Photo Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Universe

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Learn History of Astrophotography
Hubble Deep Field
This fascinating book explores the challenge and significance of the Hubble Deep Field Photographs.

Hubble Deep Field: How a Photo Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Universe tells the story of the challenges of capturing the iconic pictures taken with the Hubble telescope. The pictures are more amazing when you realize that all those stars and nebulae could be covered up by holding a grain of sand at arm’s length.

The book explores how pictures of the cosmos are taken. It also explains the significance of them. Kids will be amazed to learn that looking into space is the same as looking back in time.

This is a great book for kids aged 8-12. The stunning color photographs make it an appealing book for anyone to flick through. Reading it will teach kids a lot about the history of astrophotography and astronomy in general.

Best Astronomy Books For Adults And Teens

Best for Learning Astrophotography – Photography: Night Sky – A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark

Best Astrophotography Book
Photography: Night Sky
This book contains practical tips and tricks to help you take jaw-dropping pictures of the night sky.

The Photography: Night Sky – A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark is written by a professional photographer. Jennifer Wu has a reputation as an outstanding astrophotographer. In this book, she reveals the techniques she uses.

No matter what sort of image you are trying to capture, you will find sage advice in this book. There is a lot to consider when you’re trying out astrophotography, and this book clears up a lot of the confusion.

When you’ve captured an image, that’s not the end of the job. With astrophotography, correctly processing an image can elevate it from something mundane to a work of art. The co-author of this book, James Martin, provides you with the know-how to do this for yourself as well.

This is a really great all-around book for budding astrophotographers.

Best for Amateur Astronomy – Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars: A Beginner’s Guide to the Sun, Moon, and Planets

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Best for Amateur Astronomy
Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars
This book combines anecdotes with a thorough field guide to help you enjoy astronomy with nothing more than a good pair of binoculars.

Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars: A Beginner’s Guide to the Sun, Moon, and Planets is a great way to get into astronomy before you take the plunge of buying a telescope. All you need is a good pair of binoculars, and you’ll be all set to follow this guide around the night sky.

This book acts as a great field guide and answers many of the questions that beginners often have about astronomy. But where it really shines is in the anecdotes. The author is passionate about astronomy. His love and wonder for the topic are completely infectious. I think this is one of the best astronomy books for beginners because it not only teaches you everything you need to know, but it also stokes your enthusiasm.

By the time you’re done with this book, you’ll feel confident enough to take your binoculars out into the night. You’ll be able to find all sorts of objects inside our solar system, and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for amateur astronomy.

Best Handwritten Book – Sky to Space: Astronomy Beyond the Basics

Best Handwritten Book
Sky to Space: Astronomy Beyond the Basics
This quirky book will help you get to grips with the scale of the universe as well as some of the math in astronomy.

Sky to Space: Astronomy Beyond the Basics is a fascinating book. It’s printed in a style that makes it look handwritten. It’s a style that suits the content well. The book takes you through how to get to grips with the many complex aspects of astronomy using a pencil and paper.

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This book not only teaches you lots of interesting information. It also encourages you to try out different projects and calculations for yourself. If you follow through will all the projects in this book, you’ll develop a much clearer understanding of the universe.

This is a great book for any teenager learning about space. It’s packed with ideas that could be used for science projects as well.

Best for Self Guided Learning – Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide

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Best for Self Learning
Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide
This self-teaching guide will take you through everything you need to know about astronomy to get the most out of viewing the universe through a telescope.

Astronomy: A Self-Teaching Guide is a fantastic workbook and textbook in one. As you read through the book, it will ask you questions and encourage you to apply the information you’ve just read.

You don’t need to have any math knowledge to be able to engage with this workbook. If you spent a weekend working through this book, you’d find yourself well prepared to step in front of a telescope and begin making observations.

Best Crash Course In Astrophysics and Astronomy – Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe

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Best Overall
Astronomy 101
This book is perfect for anyone who's curious about the cosmos but doesn't want to get too bogged down in detail.

Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts about the Universe is an exciting and engaging book. If you are filled with questions about the universe and are looking for answers, this is a great book to start with.

This is a crash course, so the focus is on helping you to understand the big ideas of astronomy. This book won’t get bogged down in the minutiae and the detail. Instead, it will give you a whistle-stop tour of all the best and most exciting parts of astronomy.

It makes many of the most recent discoveries of astronomy and astrophysics easy to understand. It helps you understand how people can dedicate their lives to astronomy.

Best Book for Those Interested In The Science – The Universe in a Nutshell

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Best Book About Science
The Universe in a Nutshell
Explores the most up to date theories and discoveries in astrophysics including quantum mechanics and ten-dimensional supergravity.

You can’t make a list of astronomy books without including something from the esteemed Prof. Stephen Hawking. For beginners, I believe the most accessible of his books is  The Universe in a Nutshell

This book is billed as being a sequel to a brief history of time, but you don’t have to read that one first. In fact, this might be a better option. The writing is more accessible to those not versed in the intricacies of quantum theory.

The book explores the most up to date theories and discoveries in astrophysics. There are chapters on quantum mechanics, ten-dimensional supergravity, and black holes. Even though you certainly won’t finish this book with a deep understanding of these complex ideas, you certainly will gain an appreciation for the wonder of them.

What to Consider When Buying an Astronomy Book For Beginners

Child in astronomy themed bedroom

Level

When you choose a book about astronomy, you need to try and pick on that matches your or your child’s starting level of knowledge. Some astronomy books assume that you already know some science and maths. Others will start you from the basics entirely.

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Purpose

There are lots of different types of astronomy books. You should try to pick one that meets your needs. You can find books that will help you to learn about space in general. These can be a good choice for younger children as these books tend to focus on the most exciting parts of space.

If your aim is to prepare for a night of watching the stars, then you’ll be best served by a book that teaches you how to find stars in the sky. Maps can be a good help for this. For kid’s books, a good choice is one that helps them find constellations. These are a good place to start for spotting objects of interest in the night sky.

Then there are books that just get you excited about the mysteries of space. These sorts of books are a great choice for helping someone learn to love space and science.

Photographs and Illustrations

Deep space galaxy illustration

One of the things that makes space so appealing to people in the beauty and majesty of the structures that you find in space. Twinkling stars in the night sky, beautiful planets with their alien shapes, and ethereal nebulae are the images that can hook you on astronomy. So, if you’re choosing a book for inspiration, then you might want to focus on one that is packed with these sorts of images.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start learning Astronomy?

One of the best ways to learn about astronomy is to get a book that gives you a guide to the night sky. Then put that to work with a telescope. If you’re not sure where to start, why not check out our guide to the best telescopes for beginners. If you’re worried about being able to find anything in the night sky, then you also have a look at a computerized telescope. It makes it a lot easier to get started, and many will teach you things about the objects you’re looking at, at the same time.

What do you learn when you study astronomy?

Studying astronomy gives you the opportunity to learn lots of different aspects of Physics. You can start by learning about the solar system, the stars, and how they all move.

One of the wonderful things about astronomy is that the further into the sky you look, the further back in time you’re looking as well. There are some amazing structures hidden in deep space, and a great way to get a really good look at them is through astrophotography. This can let you learn even more about our universe.

Astronomy can lead you to learn about the mysteries of the universe, from theoretical physics to astrochemistry. It can take you on a real adventure of scientific exploration.

Definition of astronomy

How can I learn about space?

You can learn about space from reading books, making observations of the night sky, and by learning from experts. There are some great podcasts that you might want to listen to. Star Talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a great introduction to the wonders of space. If you want your science with a little touch of comedy, then you might want to try The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Documentaries are another good way to learn more about space. Some great ones include, Through The Wormhole, Cosmos, and Fight For Space.

Sandy Fargus

Last update on 2020-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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