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First Edition of "Observer's Handbook" On-line

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Written by Randall Rosenfeld, National Office on
Post Date: 
Wed, 2009/08/26

The Observer's Handbook is one of our two chief publications. For many international observers, our Society is that publication. For some, the Observer's Handbook is the leading English-language "pocket" ephemeris, reigning among mid-level ephemera designed for field use, in the class below the grand national ephemera supported by cutting-edge celestial dynamics and the latest astrometry produced by HM Nautical Almanac Office and the USNO, and the Bureau des Longitudes and the IMCCE. It is a proud, useful, and vigorous heritage.

If you've ever wondered what the first RASC "Observer's Handbook" looked like, now you can satiate your curiosity, and own a facsimile copy. Thanks to an initiative of the History Committee and Walter MacDonald's hard work of scanning, creating the PDF version, and crafting the Webpage, The Canadian Astronomical Handbook for 1907 (to give it its correct title) can be found at: http://www.rasc.ca/publications/handbook.shtml. A specially commissioned introduction by History Committee member, former Observer's Handbook Editor, and noted contributor, Roy Bishop, places our 1907 ephemeris in its historical context, and highlights changes between the first publication and the current Handbook.

For fun, and to get a feel for observing through the eyes of the past in IYA2009, you could pick an object, or class of objects, and view it (or them) based on the 1907 description and instructions and then switch to the 2009 version, or alternate between the two. The double stars mentioned by Roy would be a good starting point. Perhaps a half century from now a RASC member will use the Observer's Handbook produced in IYA2009 as the starting point for a similar exercise. By then most of us will be part of astronomical history.