Friday, February 3, 2012

TOS Review - Celestial Almanack

One of the things I love about where we live is that we are away from the city lights and can really enjoy the night sky.  So often when I pull into our driveway after dark, and it's a clear night, I will just stand outside the vehicle for a few moments and just marvel at the moon and stars.  We recognize some of the constellations, and whenever there is an event such as a lunar eclipse or a meteor shower, we talk about it and want to view it.  Of course, if it means getting up during the night, we often don't!

So I was very pleased to find out that as members of the TOS Review Crew, we had a chance to review the February edition of the Celestial Almanack.

I got to work first thing in the morning of February 1st, printing most of the book, and starting to get an idea of the things we'd be seeing in the sky this month.  I loved the old-timey frontispiece in the almanack, the easy reference calendar for the month, the Biblical references throughout, and the helpful illustrations.  Kennady and I had a look through it and she picked out the constellations she already recognized (Orion, Big and Little Dippers, Cassiopeia) and then looked at the adjacent constellations in the diagrams so we'd know what to look for when we had the chance.  And boy, were we grouchy that it was all cloudy on the evening of February 1st!  February 2nd I had a little better luck - there was still some cloud cover, but at least we could see (and identify) a few stars.

Today I sat down with Landon and Kennady and read through almost everything in this issue of the Almanack, and discussed it. Both followed along, looking at the many illustrations, and Kennady sat beside me doodling out the constellations on her own piece of paper.  She could hardly wait for sunset so we could start looking for stars!  Finally, a lovely clear night.  We went out for dinner, and happened to arrive home right at 8pm, which happens to be the time the main illustration of the night sky references, so we headed out into the yard with our Almanack and a penlight to see what we could see.  This is after we spent the last 5 minutes of the drive home with Kennady barely able to contain her excitement at having identified Orion the Hunter!  And she already knows the Big Dipper so she was ready to find that too.

With what we read together in the afternoon, and the help of the illustrations, we were easily able to identify several constellations - Orion, Canis Major, the Big and Little Dippers (which we learned isn't really a constellation, but asterisms), and Cassiopeia.  We also named the bright stars - Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran (part of Taurus), Sirius, and Polaris.  We know where to look for Leo and are pretty sure we correctly spotted Regulus, its brightest star, but it was still too early in the evening and Leo too low on the horizon for us to be sure.  We had trouble piecing together the constellation Taurus and a couple of others because the bright moon was "in the way" - but, thanks to the infomation in the Celestial Almanack, we knew that might be the case, so our expectations were realistic.  By the time we came back inside - having completely forgotten to look specifically for the planets Jupiter and Venus, which should have been quite visible in the western sky - Kennady was delighted with the activity, and still going on and on about how much she liked Orion and that he was her favorite.  LOL
What we liked best...
  • loaded, completely LOADED with information!
  • easy to understand illustrations that make it simple to identify the sights in the sky
  • realistic expectations - we knew what to look for, and how likely it was that we'd be able to see it.
What we weren't crazy about...
  • I should have stocked up on printer ink before printing! My fault, but something to be aware of if you plan on printing it.  The night sky illustrations use a lot of ink and we had trouble with a couple of them because I was running low on colored ink.
Astronomy is one of the subject areas we're considering for next year's science, and I am leaning even more strongly in that direction after our wonderful introduction to these classical astronomy resources.  I'm pretty sure we will continue getting the monthly Celestial Almanack to help us along.  And after all, we want to take the Orion Challenge!!

Would you like to learn more about classical astronomy, and take the Orion challenge?  Here's what you need to know:
The February edition of Celestial Almanack is currently available as a download at CurrClick for $3.00. 
Other products are also available at the Classical Astronomy website.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.


Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with a complimentary copy of this issue in exchange for our honest opinions.


Stefanie said...

Sounds fun! I wish we weren't surrounded by lights.

North Laurel said...

Great review! Isn't this a wonderful resource!? I've never been able to tell what is what in the sky but was able to with this almanack and it just blew my socks off :) Wonderful, just wonderful. I can't wait for more clear(ish) nights to see what we can see!

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