BOOK REVIEW: ‘Yearbook of Astronomy 2019’


Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Yearbook of Astronomy 2019

Editor: Brian Jones

Total No. of Printed Pages: 328

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 7


When introducing this volume to the reader, its Editor notes that it is ‘…The latest edition of an indispensable publication, the annual appearance of which has been eagerly anticipated by astronomers, both amateur and professional, for well over half a century.’ With its provenance thus established, he also notes that it is ‘…Aimed at both the armchair astronomer and the active backyard observer’. It is an accurate summary.

The volume opens with an Editor’s Foreword. Placed immediately after the Contents page this precis’ the volume’s content, outlines intended future developments and acknowledges those who have contributed towards its creation. It concludes with a summary of the title’s recent history. A Preface follows. This defines both the parameters which have been followed in respect of the Monthly Sky Notes (Star Charts) which are a significant part of the volume, and provides the titles of publications which might also be of use. The Preface is in turn followed by a two-page section titled About Time. This gives both a history of the development of time and clocks while also detailing Standard Times in operation in various parts of the world. A section titled using the Yearbook of Astronomy as an Observing Guide now appears. Its title is self-explanatory. The main part of the volume now appears. This is divided into four Sections (analogous to Chapters), each devoted to a specific aspect of astronomy. Within each section, subsections carry both maps and articles relevant to the larger narrative. While some articles carry page-specific Footnotes, these provide additional information specific to the page and do not carry citations. A separate section now appears. While the title (Articles Section) is seemingly self-explanatory (and perhaps even contradictory as ‘articles’ have also appeared within preceeding sections), the articles appearing  within this section are less section-specific than their predecessors and cover a wide range of astronomy-related topics. A Miscellaneous section placed after the Article section, while containing even more articles, also lists Astronomical Organisations and profiles the volume’s contributors. A Glossary completes the volume. The book contains numerous Maps, Photographs, Tables, Diagrams and Drawings. These are informatively captioned, although not all carry source-indicating citations.  The Contents page carries no mention of their existence. No Index is provided.

For this reviewer (possessed as he is of limited knowledge about ‘Astronomy’), the volume’s complete lack of an Index is its major failing. With literally no way of knowing what is within a Section or Subsection, a casual reader (of which the reviewer is but one) has no alternative but to stumble their way through the volume. With no familiar words such as might be found an Index to guide him, such a reader can have no idea of what he will find.  Many searchers will simply give up; a loss to both astronomy and the retailer. On that basis, this reviewer would strenuously suggest that the creation of an Index be given priority for any subsequent editions of this publication.

This is a well-written and very informative compilation, and (the Editor’s comments notwithstanding), is likely to be of interest to both professional and amateur astronomers alike.  Some readers with a passing interest in ‘things in the sky’ may also find it of interest.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 7.

Had there been an Index, the rating would have been higher.



BOOK REVIEW: ‘Yearbook of Astronomy 2019’