Saturday, February 4, 2012

Crew Review: Celestial Almanack by Classical Astronomy

We came in a few hours ago from our first trip out to view the night sky using Jay Ryan's Celestial Almanack.  God blessed us with a crisp winter evening in which to admire his heavenly handiwork.

I've never been adept at identifying constellations in the sky.  Ursa Major and Minor?  Well, I can find them usually.  Oh, I can spot Orion's belt like no one's business, but after that, I'm done.  Even after attending several "view the nighttime sky" programs at the local planetarium, it is hard for me to carryover that information and make real-life observations in the night sky.

I was SO pleased to be able to review Jay Ryan's second issue in his new Celestial Almanack publication.  Mr. Ryan is a self-taught  astronomer -- but his vitae is impressive.  He's been writing about astronomy since 1995 and has been a contributing editor and writer for several popular astronomy publications, such as Sky & Telescope. He's also a Christian homeschooling father, who strives to point out God's handiwork in the heavens.  You can read about Jay Ryan and Fourth Day Press at their website,

You can purchase Celestial Almanack for $3 from It is a PDF download that you will be able to print at home.  I love that you can have immediate access to this tool -- because you'll want to use it throughout the month.

Inside, you'll find a welcoming title page reminiscent of almanacs from the early days of our country --  a nice tip of the hat to the likes of Benjamin Franklin, etc.  February's introduction is an interesting explanation of the curiosities of February -- why only 28 days?  Seems like Julius Caeasar and Augustus Caeasar were stealing some of poor Februa's days.

The rest of this 21-page incudes:
  1. Astronomical Calendar
  2. Signs of the Season
  3. Seasonal Skies - evening
  4. Dance of the Planets
The booklet has useful, understandable diagrams and illustrations of what the sun, moon and stars are doing in the day and night sky.  My eyes usually glaze over when I see diagrams of the night sky, because they just don't make sense to me.  These illustrations, however are understandable and useful. {Remember you can preview the booklet at if you'd like to see some of these helpful diagrams.}

To capture everyone's interest, Mr. Ryan has included many activities.   Tonight, we measured our moon shadows so that we can compare them with our shadow lengths at the summer solstice.  Why?  Because {never knew his before}
On February 3, the Moon is near te northern extreme of the ecliptic, at the place in the sky of the summer solstice.
I know, I know, today is the 4th, not the 3rd.  But it was cool to do anyway.

Luke wanted to find some planets {he's sure that every bright star is a planet}, so we'll prep before our next outing and look for Jupiter and Venus.

I cannot tell you how much I really, really like this product.  It is totally worth $3 a month.  My only wish is that included in the guide was a glossary of terms.  It isn't a big deal, since we live in a digital age and can google "intercalated" in  0.17 seconds, but it would be handy to have right there in the guide.

You might also want to look at  Additional products from Classical Astronomy.

The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew has lots of other reviews about this product to read.  Please visit other reviewers' blogs to see what they thought!

Happy star gazing!

FCC statement:  In exchange for my honest opinion about this product, I was given a free digital download.  No other compensation was provided.

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