Uranography is map-making for the cosmos. If you've always wanted to know where you stand in outer space, now's your chance: O'Reilly has a new book called Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders that is one of the most detailed and thrilling how-to books we've read in a while. Just a few days after reading it, you could be photographing the dust of supernovas and spying on neighboring galaxies.

This richly-illustrated book by Robert Bruce Thomopson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson covers everything from how to take pictures of globular clusters, to hints on how to custom-cut foam for your astronomical instruments case. The book has two goals: to teach you how to read star maps, and to help you create beautiful images of the stars you see. In many ways the former is crucially important. Knowing how to identify constellations and locate yourself relative to them is one of the earliest ways explorers found their way across continents and oceans.

But of course, many of us will only use this book because we are curious to see and photograph what lies beyond our naked eyes in the heavens. To ease you into uranography, chapters are arranged by constellation. You learn to make images while learning sky maps at the same time. And luckily the Thompsons are able to make even the most alarmingly complex maps legible to a layperson. Before you know it, you'll be reading the skies like a pro, and creating amazing images of the Pinwheel Galaxy (at left). It's the perfect passtime for those long winter nights.

And if you manage to observe most of the objects in the book, there's a chance you'll get a prize! The Thompsons have picked the constellations in the book to meet the requirements most "observing club entities," which they point out generally give a certificate or "a lapel pin." W00t! I'll wear it next to my pin that says "I <3 Robots." Image courtesy of NASA.

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