ISON Publications and Apps

Before it became slap-across-the-face obvious to the naked eye, when Hale-Bopp was just starting to brighten in binoculars, if you wanted to know how, where and when to see that comet you had to rely on one of the monthly astronomy magazines – which were, and still are, written months in advance – or hope your local astronomical society could give you advice and guidance. The internet was in its infancy, digital cameras were still novelties, and smartphones were the stuff of science fiction. Now, as ISON approaches, the amateur astronomer and beginner skywatcher is spoiled for resources and drowning in advice and information about the comet. I have a few recommendations for you.

Firstly, soon well start to see ISON publications on the shelves, as “special issues” or “special editions” of the aforementioned astronomy magazines start to appear. They’ll have lots of photos, advice on how to find, observe and photograph the comet and, of course, lots of finder charts too. (Basically magazine versions of this blog, without the rants at nutters!) First to arrive in newsagents will be, I think, the special from DISCOVER magazine, which looks really nice…


Can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on that, around the start of October, I think..?

Haha! See the update at the end of this page…!

And soon we’ll be seeing on bookshelves this rather fabulous-looking book by David J Eicher, the EDitor of ASTRONOMY magazine…


Full details on this book here:

And speaking of books, if you speak German – hey, you might; I have readers in Germany! – then dedicated Outreacher and fellow Comet ISON enthusiast and diehard optimist Daniel Fischer has produced a *fantastic* book about Comet ISON, which I have to say features some of the best finder charts I’ve seen anywhere…


An example of one of the maps…


And if you don’t speak German, the book is available as a website to browse, allowing you to see those maps. You can run the website through Google Translate and it does a pretty good job. The charts stay labelled in German though. But come on, I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out what they’re saying…

More publications will appear in the coming weeks, I’m sure, and I’ll add those to this page so keep checking back.

Now. We need to talk about ISON Apps for smartphones, because those are starting to appear now, and I have a really good one to recommend for you. Well, two actually.

The first is the “Sky Safari” App by Southern Stars, which regular readers will know I absolutely swear by and have used to produce a lot of the graphics on this very blog. There are 3 versions of the App – a basic one for a couple of quid/dollars, a modest charge slightly more advanced one (“Plus”), and a full-featured all singing all dancing version for a still very reasonable price (“Pro”). I have Plus installed on my phone…


…and like other Apps such as Google Sky, Distant Suns etc it is basically a planetarium program that runs on your phone. You can “see” the sky for any time on any date you choose, and use it to identify stars, planets and comets in the sky above you. Aim the phone at the sky, and the screen will tell you what’s up there, labelling everything for you. Sweep the phone around and the screen display changes, as your phone, using GPS, works out which direction you’re facing. They’re works of genius, they really are, and are revolutionising amateur astronomy and skywatching. Here’s a screenshot from my phone, simulating the view I’ll see in a few weeks time (hopefully!)…


See? Everything labelled clearly, nice graphics, lots of luvverly onscreen info, does everything you could possibly want it to, and more. I cannot recommend Sky Safari highly enough, and urge all of you reading this to get a copy for your phone as soon as possible. After you initially download it you’ll need to download an additional big hefty chunk of data, so make sure you’re at home and using your wifi broadband connection and not out on the town somewhere, but Comet ISON’s details are in that data, so be sure to do it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll never wonder where the comet is, or when you’ll be able to see it, or what it will be close to in the sky, again. It’ll be right there, on your phone, in your pocket. Job done.

But I have another recommendation for you, an App I found while having a quick, bored browse last night. It’s a tiny download, and *free* and it is one of those “Outreach godsends” I dream of finding: a simple, no nonsense tool for just doing something and doing it well.

Dear readers, say hello to, and prepare to download, “Come Book” –

(I know what you’re thinking: ” ‘Come Book’?!?! Doesn’t he mean ‘Comet Book’? Where’s the “t” gone?” I don’t know, ok? It’s just… missing… look, it doesn’t matter, just trust me on this, and forget about spellings, sheesh…)


Now, I know that looks very basic and a bit amateurish, but there you go again, judging an App by its cover… “Come Book” (you know, that’s puzzling me now, too. Did they misspell it? I might have to email them when I’ve finished this post) is basic, and without frills, but it is a fantastic resource for anyone just wanting to know when and where they can see comet ISON from where they are. The App uses your phone’s GPS to figure out where you are and then just shows you where ISON will be in your sky when it’s at its best, nothing more, nothing less. No zoom ins, no panning around, no on screen info about brightness, distance, nothing like that.  Just open it up, let it figure out where you are (you can’t even change the viewing location, I don’t think) use the slider bars to set the date and time, and voila, on the screen, your sky, and that’s it.


You can use the App to go backwards or forwards in time to find out your viewing opportunities for ISON, helping you plan your observing sessions, and that’s it. And really, if you’re a very beginner at astronomy, young or old, who just wants to be pointed in the right direction at the right time, this is perfect for you, it really is. I have no hesitation in recommending it to you.

…and that’s it for now. Obviously the monthly astronomy magazines are dedicating space to ISON each issue now, and when the November issues hit the streets I’m sure they’ll be ISON heavy. In the meantime, if you use the Apps described here, and keep scanning the shelves for the books and magazine specials shown, you’ll be well prepared for the arrival of ISON.

UPDATE: Sat Oct 26th…

Well, FINALLY, after almost a MONTH of looking, I managed to find a copy of the Discover magazine special! Look!!


I had to go to BLACKPOOL to get one, mind, after my daily checks in Kendal’s WH SMITHS turned up nothing. No idea what the problem was, but the assistant in the WH SMITHS at Blackpool said they had “had it in for weeks”…  Really! Something went wrong here then; I was in my branch so often looking for it I’m sure they thought I was scouting the shop for a raid…

But it was worth the wait, it’s a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to know when, where and how to look for, observe and photograph Comet ISON. The best part is probably the day by day observing guide for the comet, which people who don’t have access to computers ir smartphone apps will find absolutely invaluable. Very highly recommended indeed.

I wonder what else will appear on the shelves and in the App stores as ISON approaches..?

6 Responses to “ISON Publications and Apps”

  1. […] ISON-Beobachtungen im Weltraum, Besprechungen des ISON-Buches des Bloggers in Deutschland und England, noch mehr ISONisches hier und hier, ein Video von heute mit einem Asteroiden neben ISON und Bilder […]

  2. thanks for the tips this will help me and my children have front row seats !

  3. Hello!

    I was trying to figure out where to look for comet ISON in November, and ended up on your blog. Thank you for the excellent information, and all that work with the images! I now know where to look (at least; I can only hope that I see what I’m looking for!).

    In any case, I’m writing to tell you that “Come Book” is now “Comet Book” on Google Play (I downloaded it just now)! Did you send them that email? 🙂

  4. They actually changed the name now to ‘Comet Book’…

  5. brilliant information but is the sky safari the basic one, plus, or the £20 ‘pro’ version

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