Category : Astronomy Books

The Art of Astrophotography Book Review

the art of astrophotography bookNot another astrophotography book I hear you say, now it seems that observational astronomy it dwindling and now everyone wants to image. Why wouldn’t you though, it nice to share pretty pictures. Imaging equipment can cost a lot of money though, but there are some reasonably priced high frame rate cameras on the market now. In addition to this a lot of the image capture software is free to use.

The Art of Astrophotography by Ian Morison is a really interesting imaging book mainly because it contains real images you can expect to create on a home astronomy set up with mid-range equipment. I also like it because each section is not too large and a lot of colour images break up the text nicely.

All areas of imaging with various equipment are covered in The Art of Astrophotography. The book begins by teaching you how to image star trails with a digital camera it then moves onto digital camera imaging of constellations. Finally you get told how to image the sky with a digital camera with a tracking mount. This enables you to image for longer with round stars. All that is within the first 30 pages and the full book has over 250 pages so you can already see this book covers a lot about imaging.

Next we have imaging the moon with a smart phone or compact digital camera and then with a DSLR camera.  From there we have imaging the Pleaides with a DSLR and a small refractor telescope.  NExt there is imaging M42 with a modified DSLR camera and of course how to process the image afterwards.

After the initial section on images The Art of Astrophotography  then looks at astrophotography accessories, including telescope types and flatteners.  It then gets slightly more complicated by introducing the science of using a guide camera for imaging and about how to cool a standard DSLR camera.

The author next takes on imaging the North American and Pelican Nebula with a refractor and an DSLR as well as discussing how to cut down on light pollution in your images.

Imaging planets is covered next with either a DSLR or a high frame rate camera. Now we are using Registax for processing and looking at planetary imaging with RGB filters. Whilst still using Registax the book moves on to looking at imaging the moon with a high frame rate camera or DSLR.

Now it’s the turn of the Sun, and that is imaged in white light and Ha using either a standard refractor with filters and specific Ha telescopes.  There is also information on how to best image comets and meteors and processing them using Deep Sky Stacker.

Next the book moves onto covering the more expensive colour and mono cooled cameras and how you can benefit from their use and what to consider if you are going to buy one.

LRGB colour imaging with filters is covered next, useful if you purchase a mono cooled camera. Purchasing good quality colour filters and a USB powered filter wheel can be costly, something to remember if you decide to purchase a mono camera and want to colour image. After this naturally there is then narrow band filters, so Ha, Sulphur II and OII filters. That is the end of the main part of the book, but up next is some large appendices to look at.

Appendix

The first appendix is about telescopes for imaging and which may be the best for you to use and your budget. This can depend on the type of object you want to image. As I have found not one telescope is good at all imaging tasks. After this comes telescope mounts, which are even more important in my mind than the telescope that sits on it. The effects of the atmosphere are also covered in another appendix and then auto guiding and image calibration are also covered. Finally at the rear of the book are some really good website links.

Overall Thoughts

The author has certainly packed a lot into The Art of Astrophotography. This is a great book which covers a lot of different objects you could image with a lot of different equipment. Who is it for? Well I think it is for a beginner coming into astrophotography as it gives you a complete overview of all the different equipment and objects to image or it’s for those astronomers who have the equipment but want to know more about how to process their images and what they can actually image with their equipment.

Where can I buy The Art of Astrophotography book?

You can buy The Art of Astrophotography from Amazon UK

Astronomy of the Milky Way Book Review

The Observer’s Guide to the Southern Sky

astronomy of the milky way book
This is the second edition of Astronomy of the Milky Way by Mike Inglis. This second edition has been updated with new science that has been found out about the objects in the book. This version of the book also benefits from a larger format with re-drawn maps and an increased number of images in colour.

A lot of the objects that are in the sky in the Southern hemisphere are objects that many of us in the northern hemisphere may never have the chance to observe with our own eyes. But we are lucky enough to be able to view a number of objects that appear in both the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere skies during the year and that’s the same for those living in the Southern hemisphere. This book covers some objects that you can’t see in either the Northern or Southern so there is something for everybody.

Astronomy of the Milky Way takes us through the highlights of the Southern hemisphere throughout the year. It starts what to see in January and February and then March and April and finally May and June. Why only half the year, well you have to read book 1 in order to get the other months, as the author admits they can’t all fit into one book.

Astronomy of the Milky Way looks at Monoceros, Canis Major and Hydra, Canis Major, Puppis, Lepus and Columba, Pyxis and Antila and Vela during January and February. March to April brings us Carina, Crux, Musca, Centaurus, Circinus, Volans, Octans, Chamaeleon and Telsecopium. May to June has us looking at Triangulum Australe, Apus, Lupus, Norma, Ara, Pavo, Libra, Scorpius, Ophiuchus and Corona Australis.

There are some great full colour images of celestial objects and some very clear constellation diagrams as well as lots of data about the objects including RA and Dec and magnitude.

Astronomy of the Milky Way is full of appendices, with 10 in total. These cover astronomical co-ordinate systems, magnitudes, stellar classifications, light filters, star clusters, double stars, star colours, books, magazine and astronomical organisations, the Greek alphabet and some popular astrophotography websites.

Overall thoughts

It’s nice to see books split up by month as they can be great for reference when you are planning your observing sessions throughout the year and you want to see what’s in the sky tonight to observe or image. Overall Astronomy of the Milky Way is a great book for those wanting to familiarise themselves with objects in the Southern hemisphere.

Where can I buy the Astronomy of the Milky Way book?

You can buy Astronomy of the Milky Way from Amazon UK or from Amazon US – https://amzn.to/2JTInRT

Unveiling Galaxies by Jean Rene Roy Book Review

The Role of images in astronomical discovery

unveiling galaxies bookUnveiling Galaxies is split into three parts. Images and the Cosmos, Images as Galaxy Discovery Engines and Organising the World of Galaxies.

This book charts the history of the understanding of galaxies through the use of images that have been taken over time. These images became investigative tools and our understanding grew with the emergence of new technology for imaging these vast galaxies. The book also explores the impact of optical, radio and X-ray imaging techniques.

The final part of organising the world of galaxies discusses the importance of galaxy atlases and how astronomers organised those images in order to educate us and how they promoted ideas and pushed forward for new knowledge. Images that caused confusion among astronomers are included to show us the reader what challenges were faced by astronomers of the time. We are told how images helped to distinguish between deep-sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies. We may forget that in the early days astronomers sat looking at images and maps, there were no computers. This was very much ‘hands on astronomy’.

Unveiling Galaxies is a beautiful book and very interesting if you are into the history of astronomy and the role that images have played through the years and changed our way of thinking about the universe.

This hardback book contains 270 pages with an appendix, bibliography and index. There are also colour plates/pages found in the middle of the book, as otherwise all images and diagrams are in black and white.

Where can I buy the Unveiling Galaxies book?

You can buy Unveiling Galaxies from Amazon UK or from Amazon US – https://amzn.to/2Wfv9kO

The Cambridge Photographic Atlas of Galaxies Book Review

The Cambridge Photographic Atlas of Galaxies by Michael Konig and Stefan Binnewies

Cambridge photographic atlas of galaxiesI really enjoy looking at my Cambridge Atlas of the Messier objects when imaging to see what I am looking for and what my final images should look like. So I was really pleased to see there was now an atlas of the galaxies as well.

This is a hardcover full colour book and it starts with a beautiful inner cover (both front and back) of the galaxies displayed on a constellation map providing the name of the galaxy and its co-ordinates.

The contents section is very clear listing all the galaxies covered in the book. There are over 320 pages of information.
Before we begin running through all the different galaxies there is an introduction section detailing the first galaxy catalogues and the nature of galaxies.

Each section in the book is split up into galaxy type with spiral galaxies being first. The beginning of each section covers the classification of that type of galaxy and its morphology and astrophysics.

The first galaxy in the book is NGC45. Each galaxy in turn is displayed in full colour with the images taken by the acclaimed amateur astrophotographer and these images are brilliant, very professional. There is a write up about each galaxy as well as a data section which provides us with details such as the constellation, RA and Dec, Brightness, type, names of the photographers, telescope used to image it, the imaging camera name, exposure time and location where it was imaged. Some of the galaxies have information on how the astrophotographer imaged the object as well.

Most galaxies in the book have their own page, with some having two pages where one full page displays a large full colour image.
As well as spiral galaxies there is a section on barred spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies, irregular galaxies, dwarf galaxies, ring galaxies, galaxy groups and clusters and finally active galaxies, quasars and gravitational lenses. There is a bibliography and index at the rear of the book.

There are more than 250 galaxies featured in the book from both the northern and southern hemisphere. You will find galaxies from all catalogues including Messier, Abell and Holmberg.

Overall

What makes The Cambridge Photographic Atlas of Galaxies great for me is the really fantastic full colour images and that each galaxy has information on how that image was taken. This is really useful to the Field of View that was achieved with a certain diameter telescope and what camera was used along with the exposure times. This makes the book a brilliant reference book.

Where can I buy the Cambridge Photographic Atlas of Galaxies book?

Inside PixInsight Book Review

Inside PixInsight BookThere have been numerous YouTube videos, articles and DVDs on PixInsight, but it’s good to see a thorough PixInsight book written on the subject with lots of helpful screenshots.

I have reviewed and used many astrophotography processing books on the subjects of various techniques from planetary imaging to deep sky imaging. One of notes include the excellent ‘Learn from the Masters’ and the excellent Photoshop book ‘Photoshop Astronomy’. But you do have to be careful with this type of book that you don’t start it and then never actually work through the whole book. This book and many other processing books can’t be picked up one day and left for a month and then started again. It’s repetition that will get the processing skills and workflow lodged into your brain. Plus you need to be processing images regularly otherwise like me you may find you forget all those brilliant Photoshop skills you once learnt.

I am not a user of the full version of PixInsight (which does cost around £200) but I have tried the LE version which is free. I do my processing in MaximDL and then in Photoshop for deep sky images that is. Planetary, Lunar or Solar imaging is done in AutoStakkert and Registax then maybe Photoshop.

PixInsight Book

Inside PixInsight is split into 4 parts, each part contains on average 6 chapters. There are 25 chapters in total in the book which is spread over 350+ pages. This book is jam packed there are no appendices fillers in this book!

The five parts are: Preprocessing, Linear Post Processing, Nonlinear Post Processing and Special Processing.

Pre-Processing

Pre-Processing is all about calibrating and aligning your individual image frames. This section takes you through doing this and telling PixInsight where to locate your light frames, dark frames and flat frames etc. There is information on using Master Darks in PixInsight as well as Dithering, star alignment and more. There are details on using reference images and how to perform batch pre-processing within PixInsight.

Linear Post-Processing

Linear Post-Processing is where we get into background models and dealing with uneven field illumination. There is also a chapter on using Masks and a chapter on Deconvolution. To finish off this section there is a chapter on color processing and noise reduction if you use a colour camera.

Non-linear Post Processing

In Non-linear Post Processing we look at stretching, combining our LRGB frames. We also take a look back at the various toolbars and menus and then work on nonlinear noise reduction, HDR (High Dynamic Range) compression together with working on the images contrast and sharpness. There are then a couple of chapters about finishing up such as looking at color saturation, some transformations and painting. Finally there is a chapter on archiving, saving your work in different formats and how to print.

Chapter 21 is a workflow chapter that takes you through processing an image with a mono or colour camera.

Special Processing

The Special Processing section specialises in comet techniques, HDR, drizzle, multi-scale images, narrowband processing and workflows. There is then a chapter on mosaic processing.

Overall Thoughts on Inside PixInsight

At the end of the book are some really nice deep sky images that have been processed in PixInsight.

Inside PixInsight contains a mixture of colour and black and white images. The screenshot are mainly in B&W which is fine as they really don’t matter too much. There are enough images to stop you getting lost.

From what I have read and followed through the book it seems a good book to stick at and work through if you really want to conquer PixInsight. Plus it’s nice to read a paperback as opposed to staring at a screen all the time, but more often than not I imagine you will have the book open in one hand and the other hand will be on the mouse whilst using PixInsight.

I think you need to read this book, follow online tutorials and watch some YouTube videos and practice, practice, practice in order to be become a seasoned user. I can recommend using ‘Inside Pixsight’ as one part of your arsenal.

Where can I buy the Inside PixInsight book?

You can buy Inside PixInsight from Amazon UK



1 2 3 15