Saint Mary's Astrophysics student publishes star-gazing book for kids

John Read, a Saint Mary's Astrophysics student and author. 

John Read, a Saint Mary's Astrophysics student and author. 

John Read, a full-time Astrophysics student at Saint Mary’s, knows how to manage his time wisely. This summer he has published three (yes three) new books and republished another book. Along with his second novel (Callisto Deception) and 50 Targets for the Mid-Sized Telescope, he has written a children’s book: 50 Things to See with a Telescope – Kids.

Read, a self-described nerd, has long been interested in astronomy. He loved reading astronomy articles in National Geographic magazines as a child but it wasn’t until he got his first $14 telescope at Walgreens drugstore in his early 20s that it became a passion. He started photographing the sky, buying increasingly better sky-gazing equipment. He also joined a local astronomy club in California, and was awarded the Joe Disch award for volunteering at almost 50 star parties in a single year. 

He wrote his first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, upon discovering that many students who owned telescopes didn’t know how to use them. Self-published in 2013, it quickly became successful, often leading Amazon’s stargazing and astronomy best-seller lists. It has been translated into 10 languages.

“For me, it’s not enough to see the wonders of the universe with my own eyes: I have this unquenchable desire to share my experience with the world,” he wrote in a piece published this year in Popular Astronomy

About the book

Read says that his book was created in response to other astronomy books that either have too much detail for beginners, or too few pictures.

In 50 Things to See with a Telescope – Kids, each colourful page contains a telescope view feature, showing young stargazers how to view galaxies, nebulae and star clusters with a small telescope or binoculars.

Read says it would be appropriate for ages eight and up, and is a great way for kids and parents to understand the night sky and foster a love of astronomy.

 Quitting Your Day Job

Now in the second year of his BSc in Astrophysics at Saint Mary’s, Read, 34, has more life experience than most of his fellow students. He first graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2005 with a Bachelor of Commerce and started climbing the corporate ladder, taking on roles with increasing responsibility at a Fortune 500 company in California before retiring to pursue his passion.

He returned home to Nova Scotia with his wife and two toddlers, and he has some big post-graduation plans. He can envision working in academia, as well as working on large scale projects as a research scientist.

Saint Mary’s is home to one of the world’s few Twitter-controlled observatories, the Burke-Gaffney Observatory. Read envisions that similar technology could someday be leveraged, so that he can study from Halifax using shared equipment in the U.S. and around the world.


For anyone interested in astronomy, Read recommends joining the Halifax chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The group of over 200 amateur and professional astronomers hosts events such as Keji Dark Sky Weekends and the Nova East Star Party.