Category : Astronomy Books

Astrophotography for the Amateur

Astrophotography for the amateurThis is the second edition of Michael Covington’s Astrophotography for the amateur book.  It is nice to find a book solely on astrophotography, as that’s what interests me most, I always like to come in from the cold with some images or video to work on.

Although the title of the book is astrophotography for the amateur, I did find this book to be quite in depth and it does include non-beginner topics such as exposure tables, and lots of mathematical equations. The book does not include many colour images, only in a section in the centre of the book.

Astrophotography for the amateur is broken down into four main sections; simple techniques, advanced techniques, photographic technology and digital imaging.

The first section takes you through photographing stars without a telescope, and how to shoot eclipses, the moon, comets and meteors.

The second section on advanced techniques takes you through performing prime focus photography, which is where you connect the camera directly to the telescope.  This section also discusses dealing with tracking, vibration, unsteady air, dew and more. This section finishes off detailing piggy backing your camera on your telescope, building and using a barn door tracker, using lenses, dealing with light pollution and how to get the best polar alignment.

The third section entitled photographic technology covers using traditional SLR cameras, there is no mention of digital cameras in this section.  This section does include everything you wanted to know about SLR cameras though, such as about film, various cameras and developing and processing your shots.

The final section is all about digital imaging, including file compression, how to manipulate colour, combining images, printing, smoothing, sharpening, working with histograms and all about CCD imaging.  The CCD section talks about how CCD works, aiming and focusing, exposures and focal lengths and more.

Astrophotography for the amateur also includes six appendices, such as exposure tables, plans for an electronic drive corrector and about photographic filters as well as an appendix on mathematical analysis of polar-axis misalignment.

So as you can tell there is a lot of content in this book, and it covers lots of areas of astrophotography and it packs in a lot of information. Overall a very good book on astrophotography, just a shame that DSLR cameras were not covered in any detail, perhaps in the next edition the SLR section will be changed to a DSLR section.

Astrophotography for the Amateur is available at Waterstones


Atlas of the Universe Book Review

Atlas of the Universe BookPhilip’s Atlas of the Universe by Patrick Moore is now in its sixth edition. The Atlas of the Universe is quite a big book; it’s a hardcover book and is a full size type coffee table book.  The full colour photographs, images and diagrams are absolutely breath taking, with pictures from space missions and images of planets, nebulae, constellations and more.

Atlas of the Universe is divided into seven sections, these are “Exploring the Universe”, which covers the history of astronomy and space exploration and the latest results from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

“The Solar System” chapter contains information on everything in our solar system including the earth and the planets, with images and maps of the planets from visiting spacecraft including the Cassini probe, the Mars Express and the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

“The Sun” chapter covers visible phenomena, from sunspots to solar eclipses including images from the SOHO and TRACE spacecrafts.

“The Stars” chapter covers nebulae, supernovae, black holes, stellar clusters with images from the VLT or Very Large Telescope.

“Into the Universe” includes the structure of the Universe, our Galaxy, quasers.  It also discusses the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.

Towards the rear of the book there are more practical astronomy chapters, including Star Maps, a complete atlas of the constellations (northern and southern hemisphere) stretched across 22 maps.  There are also tables accompanying the maps which give co-ordinates, magnitudes and other data.

The final chapters contain beginner’s guides which teach beginners such basics as how to use a planisphere and an introduction to binoculars and telescopes.  There are sections on digital imaging with cameras and CCD cameras. The final section covers having an observatory.  Atlas of the Universe ends with a 25 page glossary which includes colour diagrams.

Overall The Atlas of the Universe is a magical book, if you don’t like reading these types of general astronomy books, and then just look at the images, they are amazing. I could imagine this book to be a brilliant gift for the avid astronomer or for any child who is studying astronomy or has a school project to complete.

Atlas of the Universe is available at Waterstones


Mars Observers Guide Book Review

Mars Observers GuideThis version of the Mars Observer’s Guide was published in 2003.  It is one of the pocket sized Philip’s books which retails at under £10.

Mars Observer’s Guide contains a lot of full colour pictures and diagrams all of which are very high quality images. The book begins by looking at the main features of Mars, Martian geology and the seasons of Mars.

There is then a chapter on telescope equipment that can be used to view Mars. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of refractors, reflectors and catadioptrics.  The rest of the chapter then takes a look at eyepieces, filters and mounts.

There is a small section about the photography of Mars and CCD imaging. A larger section is dedicated to sketching Mars, with lots of help and advice on drawing Mars.

The following three chapters cover what’s happening at Mars in 2003, 2005 and 2007-08, such as highlights of the year, and apparition timetables.  Obviously this book is re-published every few years in order to bring it up to date, so make sure you purchase the latest copy so you have information on Mars to last you the next few years.

At the end of the book there is information about the history of Mars and the influential observers of Mars.  There is then information on all of the space missions to Mars including satellites and Mars landers.

Overall the Mars Observer’s Guide is a useful pocket guide which includes a great deal of useful information about the red planet for education and observers.

Mars Observer’s Guide is available at Waterstones


50 Best Sights in Astronomy Book Review

50 Best Astronomy Sights BookEach of the 50 sights are given their own chapter in this book with these chapters then divided into sections based upon the field of view, and thus what you need to use to see each sight. This includes the naked eye, binoculars, small and large telescopes.

Each of the fifty sights is given several pages each, and each sight is well described together with tips on how to see the sight.

Such sights covered are solar and lunar eclipses, the Pleiades, Andromeda galaxy, Jupiter, Great Orion Nebula, Venus and The Milky Way.

‘The 50 Best Sights in Astronomy and How To See Them’ is great little book, and will give beginner astronomers a great insight in what you can see and what to look out for during the astronomical year.

Most of the images in the book are in black and white except for a few colour glossy pages that can be found in the middle of the book.

The book also contains five small appendices covering a list of total solar eclipse dates up to 2024, major meteor showers throughout the year, total and partial lunar eclipses, the brightest stars and the transit dates of Mercury and Venus.

Overall ‘The 50 Best Sights in Astronomy and How To See Them’ is a useful beginners book but it would have been nice if each sight could have been presented with a colour photograph.

50 Best Sights in Astronomy is available at Waterstones


Stargazing with a telescope

Stargazing with a telescope bookI actually received this book as part of the AstroBox when I purchased my Bresser Messier 130N telescope. Philip’s produce some really good books on all aspects of astronomy and this book is no different.

Stargazing with a telescope begins by taking you through how telescopes work and the various types of telescopes available and which may be right for you. The book also contains a lot of information on the various types of mounts from various manufacturers and how they all work. There are also some great tips on what to look for when purchasing a second hand telescope and a section on how to maintain your telescope.

Stargazing with a telescope then moves onto using your telescope, it begins with setting up your viewfinder and getting its alignment correct. The book also describes each part of the telescope in turn and gives help and advice on how to make the most of your nights viewing.

Stargazing with a telescope shows you how to set up and use setting circles, and get used to use RA and Dec settings, and polar align your telescope. It also instructs you how to use the Philips Planisphere.

There is then a section on the planets and how to view the sun and about viewing nebulae and double stars.

The last major chapter is about the extras you can purchase for your telescope including eyepieces, filters, dew shields, power supplies, astrophotography and web cam use.

Finally the book has a number of sky maps depicting the sky throughout the various seasons and a list of the various nebulae and other interesting objects to observe.

At around 190 pages Stargazing with a telescope packs in so much vital information for astronomy beginners.

I actually think that every person starting astronomy should read Stargazing with a telescope. I still am, for reference as well. This book could also be read before you purchase binoculars or a telescope as there is lots of good advice about the different type of telescope and which may be right for you.

This book review is based on the 2004 edition.

Stargazing with a Telescope is available at Waterstones


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