Category : Astronomy Books

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



Finding a Million Star Hotel Book Review

finding a million star hotel book

Finding a million star hotel – An Astro-Tourist’s Guide to Dark Sky Places written by Bob Mizon.

The main body of the book is about various locations from which to stargaze around the world. This section is broken down into the US, England, Europe and the odd country outside Europe like Iceland. Each location has some useful information about it and some web links to learn more about the location and it’s accommodation.

Much more than a travel guide

But please don’t think this book is just about hotel listings or where to camp around the world. There is much more to this book than that. Less than half of the book, around 120 pages is given up to discussing the best places in the UK, Europe and US to stargaze.
Included in the book are also details on what defines a dark sky site, what to observe when which includes the planets, galaxies, nebulae and some very nice easy to read constellation diagrams. There is also a section on how to view the Sun safely.

Of the 8 chapters in the book chapter 5 covers the great solar eclipse of 2017, but you also get globe maps showing the best locations to view subsequent solar eclipses all the way to the year 2026.

As an addition there is also a small chapter entitled ‘The Star Hunter’s Kit’ which briefly discusses the sort of binoculars or telescope magnification you may require.

Many Appendices

The “Finding a million star hotel” book contains a lot of appendices – 9 to be exact. There is a list of the International Dark Sky Places, UK Dark Sky Discovery Sites, a report of the royal commission on environmental pollution, 100 places in the US to see the 2017 Solar Eclipse, a further information section, a glossary of astronomy terms, a glossary of light pollution terms and details about the Bortle scale and SQM readings.

Overall thoughts…

So, all in all something for everybody. Information on what a dark sky really is, where to find them, what to take with you and how and what to observe when you get there. Perfect.

But one of the best things about “Finding a million star hotel” is that it’s really nice to see full colour images for a change throughout this book, instead of those horrible black and white images that are all too familiar in a lot of astronomy books.

Where can I buy Finding a Million Star Hotel Book?

You can buy Finding a Million Star Hotel from Amazon UK



Building a Roll-Off Roof or Dome Observatory Book Review

Building a roll off or dome observatoryThis the second edition of the popular Guide to designing and building your own Roll-Off Roof or Dome Observatory. There comes a time when it becomes tiresome having to set up telescopes cameras cables and computers each night, a lot of the observing time is lost Polar aligning and setting up. If you are fortunate to have the garden space and dark skies then it’s time to think about making a permanent observatory.

At the start of the book there are various photos of observatory types which show the many ways of building an observatory for your telescopes and equipment. These include twin sliding roofs, log cabins, ‘A’ frame designs, cantilever opening roofs and ‘Clapp Trapp’ folding panels which is an observatory which can be taken to star parties.

This book is all you will need, it explains the benefits of a permanent building and the pros and cons between Domes versus Roll-Off Roof. The first step is to decide the size of the structure, the telescopes and equipment to be housed, this book takes you through all the planning stages with good advice on what to consider in the design and criteria to consider.

Part 1 – Planning

The building stage considerations involve types of footing and provisions for data and mains cables, there are detailed engineering drawings in the book to help you at this stage.

The most important part of the observatory is the Pier design; detailed drawings are included with suggested dimensions which you need to take into account for the equipment to be installed. Isolating the pier from the observatory floor is an important consideration and is dealt with in detail.

The engineering plans for the Framing and walls for the roll–Off roof are shown in drawings and photographs, advice on fabricating the different roof tracks and roof are shown and the methods of construction which can be adapted to suit your own design.

Part 2 – Building

Part 2 is how to build a Dome Observatory detailing the design and construction methods. This is a more complicated build particularly the dome which can be fabricated using plywood, galvanized steel or fibreglass. The design shown is for a 2.1 meters high wall base. This section goes through step by step stages of construction with photos and drawings for various dome designs.

If you prefer an off the shelf observatory Chapter 14 describes the three main commercial types, the Roll-Off Roof, The Rotating Clamshell and the Rotating Aperture including feature of the SkyShed POD, SkyShed POD Max and the UK made Pulsar Observatory.

Overall

To summarize this is an excellent technical book to have if you are planning to build your own observatory or just looking at improving an existing setup, it’s packed with engineering drawing and photos to help you on your way with advice based on years of experience of the author.

Reviewed By Mick Jenkins

Where can I buy the Building a Roll-Off Roof or Dome Observatory Book?

You can buy Building a Roll-Off Roof or Dome Observatory from Amazon UK



Your Guide to the 2017 Solar Eclipse Book Review

Your Guide to the Solar Eclipse 2017 BookIf were planning to go to America to see the 2017 Solar Eclipse or you went, then this was the solar eclipse book for you, if not it is still a very good read. There are 25 chapters of detailed information about the Sun and how to observe it safely followed by detailed explanations of the eclipse.

The book starts with a guide to the path of the Moons shadow across America on the 21st of August 2017 from the start point in Palisades Oregon at 10:15:57 am PDT and then progresses through 11 states from West to East finishing in South Carolina.

The following chapters go into detail about the Saros Cycle and Solar eclipse throughout history. The first recorded eclipse mentioned in ancient Chinese tome occurred either in the year 2136 B.C or 2128 B.C. Modern times of the recorded eclipse starts in 1608 after the inventions of the telescope. The author describes various eclipses through the centuries from his collection of 19th century books finishing with extracts from Corona and Coronet being a narrative of the Amherst Eclipse expedition to Japan in Mr James’s schooner yacht Coronet, to observe the Sun’s total obscuration 9th of August 1896 which is well worth a read.

Moving on, the book goes through how to look at the Sun safety, if you plan to observe the Sun it’s important to understand the dangers and the equipment that can and can’t be used, such as sun glasses and compact discs and colour film strip no matter how many layers you stack. This is covered in two chapters in a lot of detail, the book goes on to explain how to observe the Sun Safety and Ten ways NOT to observe the Sun.

If you are planning to go to America then the next few chapters are worth the price of the book, they explain how to rehearse for the eclipse, what will happen during the passage of the Moon in front of the Sun’s disc and the times it takes to totality. If you’re going to take photos then it’s important to understand the types of equipment available and results you can achieve starting with an explanation of the types of telescope, from refractors to reflector with the correct aperture filters and accessories. Hydrogen Alpha narrowband scope and Daystar Quarks are covered in this comprehensive section; this is well worth a read before you buy equipment for the trip.

Appendices

There are a number of DIY projects you can try for observing the Sun such as a simple Sun Viewer and projectors for simple scopes and binoculars with detailed plans and step by step instructions giving sizes and materials.

Finally the book gives common sense tips on your planning for the day of the Eclipse what you need to know understanding the weather along the centre line and a list of things to bring.

Overall

This is a comprehensive guide to the 2017 Total Solar eclipse; Michael E Bakich provides an excellent book for both those wishing to visit America and for readers who wish to understand the Sun, solar observing equipment. This book is highly recommended.

Where can I buy the Total Solar Eclipse Book?

You can buy Deep Sky Observing from Amazon UK



Deep Sky Observing Second Edition Book Review

Deep Sky ObservingDeep Sky Observing – Second Edition

The author Steven R Coe has years of astronomy observing and knows all the pitfalls of not preparing for a night of observing. This means there are tonnes of practical advice in this Deep Sky Observing book.

Deep Sky Observing begins with some introductory chapters about who this book is aimed at and why the reader should listen to Steven Coe.

The author then asks some more commonly asked questions with each question answered in a chapter. The questions include ones like “How do I find the best observing site” and “How do I maximise my time observing”, “What accessories are useful?”, “Why should I take notes whilst observing?” and “How can I find all these deep sky objects?”.

The main part of the book covers a broad range of deep sky objects you can observe. Each item in turn has a description, data such as co-ordinates, size, type, name etc. Most objects either have a drawing or an astronomy image taken by the author. Against most objects there are also descriptions of what you will see using various sized telescopes from 4 inch,6 inch, 13 inch, massive 36 inch and even finderscopes and binoculars.

There is also a rather nice chapter asking “Why would I want to use binoculars to view the sky”. The question is answered by giving the reader lots of objects they can use binoculars to see. Accompanying the objects are lots of images of what you may see as well as a discussion on the various sizes of binoculars.

After the main section of explaining each deep sky object comes a number of chapters at the rear of the book. These chapters discuss such topics as using a computer for observing, setting up a scope for public observing along with a list of objects to show people. There is then a section on other good astronomy books you may want to read. The appendix contains a list of 110 deep sky objects with their co-ordinates, type and notes on each in a list.

Overall this is a nice book with smallish introductory chapters that are a pleasure to read without getting bogged down in too much detail. It won’t take you too long to finish reading the chapters but you will probably use the mid section of the book for a long time as a reference to help you look up deep sky objects and to allow you to plan your observing session. The part I like is that each object is described through various sizes of telescope. It’s a shame the astronomy images are in black and white as I could imagine they would look amazing in colour, I think there is only one colour image in the whole book. A thoroughly good read and one I recommend for deep sky observing enthusiasts who may be beginners or intermediate observers.

Where can I buy the Deep Sky Observing Book?

You can buy Deep Sky Observing from Amazon UK




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