Category : Astronomy Books

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.


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.


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.


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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Patrick Moore’s Observers Year 366 Nights of the Universe

Patrick Moore’s Observers Year: 366 Nights of the Universe by Mike Inglis, 3rd Edition published by Springer

Patrick Moore's Observers Year: 366 Nights of the UniverseThe original text of Patrick Moore’s Observers Year: 366 Nights of the Universe was written by Patrick Moore, and the majority of the text has not been touched but the data has been updated. This version of the book contains data from 2015 to 2020.

There is a page for every day of the year in this book. Each month begins with a look at the sky with the initial pages detailing the constellations in the sky, then there is a list of what to look at throughout that month.

Each day of the month gets its own page. You may just find written text for a particular day or a constellation diagram with a list of objects to view in that constellation. On a particular day you may also get a small box detailing Future Points of Interest – something that will happen on that day in the future, like the ‘Earth at Aphelion’ or the Opposition of Pluto’ in a particular year on that day. The number of pages per day is not massive; you may find that there is just one page or less per day. That means it’s not an arduous read, you could just read a page a day.

There are 3 appendices, a list of the 88 constellations, one with the Greek alphabet and a glossary.

I like the fact that you can pick this book up every day and have a quick read of what you can look at tonight in the night sky, at the same time the book improves your overall astronomical knowledge day by day.

Sorry about the short review of this book, but there’s not much more to say about it.

Where can I buy Patrick Moore’s Observers Year 366 Nights of the Universe book?

You can buy Patrick Moore’s Observers Year 366 Nights of the Universe from Amazon UK

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Atlas of Great Comets Book Review

Atlas of Great Comets by Ronald Stoyan, published by Cambridge University Press

The Atlas of Great Comets is a hardcover book by Ronald Stoyan. It’s hard to imagine what a comet book will contain, whether it’s lots of images and details of where the comet is now and when it may be back. But this book is a lot more than that, it goes right back in history and includes early drawings of what people saw in the sky at the time, you could call this a history book.

The book begins with an introduction to comets including cometary beliefs and fears, how the comets were seen in art, literature and poetry. There is a section at the beginning of the book detailing the most successful comet discoverers who have at least 10 comet discoveries. At the top of this list is Robert McNaught with 82 followed in second place by Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker with 32. After the introduction to comets section the main section of the book then takes you through all the main comets from 1471 in the Middle Ages right up to Comet McNaught in 2007.

In total there are 30 comets in the book, with 11 of these appearing in the 20th Century. It’s amazing how many times Comet Halley appears throughout the book. Comet Halley appeared in 1531, 1607, 1682, 1759, 1835, 1910 and 1986.

The Atlas of Great Comets contains a great many images of the various comets in both black and white and colour. Each comet also contains a table with information like the discovery date, the discoverer, date of closest earth approach, perihelion date, maximum magnitude etc. There is also a constellation diagram for each comet showing where it was in the sky at various dates in time. If there aren’t any images of the comet then you are presented with some wonderful historical drawings.

When it comes to the writing, each comet has a section describing the comets orbit and visibility which goes hand in hand with the constellation diagram. There is also a section entitled “Discovery and observations”, this tells you how the comet was discovered and what happened to it whilst it was on its journey past the Earth. Finally there is a section entitled “Background and public reaction”.

The appendix includes a glossary and bibliography and references, it also provides a list of the comets in the book together with the comets designation, perihelion date, distance, distance to Earth in astronomical units, maximum magnitude and maximum tail length in degrees.

Overall thoughts

It’s really nice to see a mixture of colour and black and white images as you’d expect with a historical type book. If you are interested in Comets then this is an amazingly detailed book that you will love. It’s the historical comets that interested me the most mainly due to the fact that none of us actually saw them. The historical drawings and old text that accompany the historical comets are compelling.

The only downside of the book is that I would have expected to see some more comets in the book, as the last comet in the book is from 2007. Whereas since I started astronomy as a hobby I have imaged and witnessed comet Holmes 17p in 2007, comet Lulin in 2009, comet Panstarrs in 2011, comet ISON in 2013 and comet Lovejoy in 2014. May be these will be added in the second edition of the book, unless these comets are not considered ‘Great Comets’.

Where can I buy the Atlas of Great Comets book?

You can buy Atlas of Great Comets from Amazon UK

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