Category : Astronomy Books

Star Ware Book Review

Star Ware BookStar Ware (ISBN 0471750638) is now in its fourth edition, this is maybe because star ware instructs amateur astronomers on how to choose telescopes and accessories and how to use them, and the technology behind telescopes and accessories is always changing with new versions of telescopes and lenses being released all the time.

Star Ware is a very useful book and one that I enjoyed reading as it covers the technology products that we as amateur astronomers look at buying everyday. The author is American so all prices are in dollars, and some versions of telescopes and accessories may not be available in the UK, so this is something to remember when reading the book.

I would say that about half of the book is given over to discussing the various pros and cons of telescope types, models and mounts. Although the beginning of the book is given over to discussing how the various types of telescopes work and a little bit of history behind them all.

Star Ware makes you think about what type of telescope you want to buy, by asking what you want to see with the telescope and how much you have to spend etc. All the major makes and models of telescope are included, such as those from Meade, Celestron, Orion, Astro-Physics and many more. All the various types of telescope are also covered including Reflectors, Refractors, Catadioptric telescopes and the various mounts used with each.

Star Ware contains an extensive chapter on eyepieces. This chapter teaches you the basics of how the various types of eyepieces work and then it reviews the various manufacturers of eyepieces, and eyepiece accessories such as barlow lenses, binocular viewers and focal reducers.

There is also a hefty chapter on astronomy accessories you may want to purchase including finder scopes, filters, star diagonals, eyepiece cases, books, periodicals, computer software and digital setting circles. There is also a great section on what you may want to look out for if you want to perform some astrophotography, including information on cameras, webcams, CCD cameras and photographic lenses.

Star Ware even includes information on observing chairs and observatories. There is even a really nice chapter on DIY astronomy, which tells you how to make your own swinging table, various observing chairs – the LYBAR chair and Ron Boes chair, a lazy laser collimator, a simple dew heater, vibration suppression pads, a simple accessory tray, an equatorial table, and even a skywatcher observatory shelter. So there are loads of DIY projects for you in this book if you fancy giving them a go.

Star Ware also has a useful chapter on how to set up your telescope and various mounts after you have unpacked your new telescope, as the author Philip Harrington knows how a lot of telescopes arrive with useless instruction manuals. This chapter also covers how to clean your telescope and mirrors, also how to collimate your Newtonian telescope or Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.

The final chapter entitled ‘Tricks of the Trade’ shows you how to evaluate sky conditions and how to traverse the nights sky, by star hopping or by using setting circles and how to polar align your telescope.

Overall the nice thing about Star Ware was that it just covered the hardware of astronomy and did not talk too much about the planets and the universe. But also the book was not just about telescope hardware and accessories but it did also tell you about how the various pieces work and the author provides his thoughts on various makes and pieces of equipment.

It was also nice to see some tips on how to set up telescopes, polar align, star hop and have lots of tips on various subjects including traveling with your telescope, storing your telescope and maintaining your telescope.

Star Ware was a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and a book I would pickup again for reference in the future. Star Ware did not contain a great deal of images but just the right amount, the only drawback for UK readers was that prices and hardware models were all based on the US.

Star Ware is available at Waterstones

Skywatching Book Review

Skywatching BookSkywatching (ISBN 0002200287) is an all rounder type of astronomy book which claims to be the Ultimate Guide to the Universe. This is the type of book a grandmother or aunt would buy you for your birthday or Christmas once they have learnt that you are interested in astronomy but this is not a bad thing, as Skywatching is a very colourful book with lots of very useful content and images.


The first chapter of Skywatching gives a very good guide to sky watching through the ages, including the first sky watchers such as the Babylonians and the Chinese astronomers. This chapter also mentions Copernicus, Kepler and of course Galileo. Milestones during the 20th Century are also nicely covered from Einsteins publishing of relativity in 1905 to 1994 when the periodic comet shoemaker Levy 9 collided with Jupiter.

Chapter two covers stars and galaxies, including dwarf stars, giant and super giant stars. This chapter also covers a wide range of sites to look for in the sky including nebulae, star clusters and galaxies such as M31, M33, M81 and M87.

There is also a chapter on Skywatching Tools and Techniques; this covers naked eye astronomy, observing techniques such as using red lights for outdoor viewing and measuring sizes and distances using your hands. This chapter also takes you through using binoculars for astronomy and the different types of binoculars. It also contains information on the different types of telescopes and which is the right one for you. There is also a small section on eyepieces and on astrophotography and large telescopes.

Chapter four entitled Understanding the Changing Sky, takes you through how to map the stars and how the earth spins and how the seasons are created. This chapter also discusses the phases of the moon, star brightness and colour, and solar and lunar eclipses, it also covers shooting stars and other lights in the sky such as rainbows and aurorae and haloes.

Chapter five is a very large chapter which shows you how to use starfinder charts and it then goes on to describe each constellation in turn with a page for each, including a description and what to look for as well as a sky chart for each and what other exciting sites can be found in that constellation.

Chapter six is a tour of the solar system and there are some great pictures and write ups about each planet and our moon, this chapter also covers comets and asteroids.

This version of Skywatching that I am reviewing was reprinted in 1996, so that is quite an old book, but a lot of the content is still the same today, we still have the same constellations and planets to view, it maybe that we have now discovered more in the sky and technology has now improved, but Skywatching from Collins is still a very good book, what makes it especially good is because it is so readable and gives you the information without bogging you down in science, plus the number and quality of images in the book are great.

Skywatching is the type of book for amateur astronomers who would go back and use the book as reference again and again.

Skywatching is available at Waterstones

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