Category : Astronomy Books

NASA Mars Rover Book by Haynes Book Review

NASA Mars Rovers by Haynes – Owner’s Workshop Manual

1997-2013 (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity)

Haynes Mars Rover Owners Workshop Manual BookThis is one of Haynes’ astronomy owner’s workshop manual books. I have reviewed a few of these already including the Space Shuttle and the Lunar Rover books. Please note this book won’t take you through how to repair the Mars Rovers or how to build your own, but they do manage to provide the reader with an amazing collection of information about the Mars Rovers in one book.

You get some brilliant cross-sectional diagrams and photographs. This book also comes with some amazing full colour images of the Mars terrain which have been taken by the Mars Rovers.

The book begins with an introduction to Mars, and then there are details on the early missions to Mars, including Mariner 4 and Mariner 9 as well as information on the Viking lander.

There is then a section on the newer missions to Mars including the Mars Global Surveyor and the Pathfinder missions.

A large part of the book is given over to Spirit and Opportunity. In this chapter both Mars Rovers are covered in very precise detail, from the planning stage, to taking the reader through each part of technology that the Rover carried on board. This chapter even gives a small mention to Beagle 2!

After this chapter we come onto Curiosity. Again through many full colour images and diagrams the reader is taken from concept stage through to engineering, building and testing. There is also lots of information on the advanced landing system that was used with the sky crane. Each scientific device on Curiosity is thoroughly covered. This chapter ends with some really great panoramic images of the Mars surface taken by Curiosity.

I love this book, for me it’s more like having a full colour encyclopaedia on the Mars Rovers, this Haynes manual on the Mars Rovers is thoroughly recommended. A great Mars Rover Book.

NASA Mars Rover Manual by Haynes is available at Amazon

Budget Astrophotography Book Review

Budget Astrophotography
Budget Astrophotography is an introduction into Imaging with a Webcam or DSLR for amateur astronomers. The books start with the anatomy of the DSLR camera sensor explaining various aspects of Pixel size, chip size, and Chip sensitivity and various other features in easy to understand terms.

The next chapter deals with the Telescope types Refractors, Reflectors and Catadioptric then goes in the detail of the various Telescope Mount types and explains why and how to perform Polar Alignment.

The next two chapters deal with Image capture and image processing. There is a lot of good advice on planning imaging sessions and goes on to explain in easy to understand terms the reasons for taking bias, darks and flat frames to improve the final image quality.

Imaging processing section covers a large number of subjects from preparing Master frames to Layer Masks the author uses flow charts and computer screen shots to explain the topics. There are paragraphs on methods of producing Mosaics and aligning moving objects like comets and Asteroids.

Webcam imaging of planetary object has its own chapter explaining camera types and processing the AVI images with various software then goes on to explain colour and mono camera imaging. The use of individual Red Green Blue (RGB) filters to achieve a colour planetary image with a mono camera and the processing steps required. The chapter then goes on to explain Tips and Tricks of each planet including the Sun and Moon.

For the more advanced Amateur Astronomer chapter 6 looks at Spectroscopy, Photometry and Astrometry in detail for those looking for an interesting project.

The book finishes with Advanced Processing Techniques such as Star removal in Photoshop and Images Plus, goes on to explain with images and computer screen shots, noise filters, enhancing Nebula contrast with Narrow Band Data and Light Gradient removal.

This is an excellent book for the beginner and the more advanced Amateur astronomer planning to start imaging with a DSLR or a webcam. It will be a useful addition to the Amateur book collection and a valuable reference book.

This book covers a wide range of topics, all of which are nicely covered in some detail. So whether you are interested in narrowband imaging, processing deep sky images or imaging the planets there is something for you.

It was good to see a good selection of colour images throughout the book, instead of the normal bland black and white images you sometimes get in astronomy books. At the end of the book the author adds a gallery of images taken with a wide range of equipment from camera lenses to 16” Dobsonian telescopes.

I can recommend this book from The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy series Published by Springer.

Reviewed By Mick Jenkins

Budget Astrophotography is available at Amazon

Astrophotography on the Go Book Review

Astrophotography on the GoAstrophotography on the Go by Joseph Ashley

‘Astrophotography on the Go’ from Springer is part of the Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy series and the subtitle for it is ‘Using Short Exposures with Light Mounts’.

Most people who travel to do their astrophotography won’t take their usual hi-end home imaging equipment with them, but will usually have a separate set of telescope equipment that goes with them. This usually means taking a lighter mount and perhaps smaller telescopes together with a laptop and other astronomy equipment that is designed for travelling.

In ‘Astrophotography on the Go’ the author defines a lightweight and portable mount as one that weighs no more than 7.5kg, is easily separated, a standard dovetail saddle and collapsible and extendable legs.

The book begins with astrophotography basics such as the various types of telescope and details on cameras, accessories, mounts and how to put it all together.

The book then goes into a little more depth with two of the chapters dedicated to talking about astrophotography with Alt-Azimuth and lightweight EQ mounts. In these chapters such details as maximum exposure times with Alt-Az mounts are covered and the best way to set the mounts up.

Other topics in the book include performing astrophotography in light polluted areas, doing piggyback astrophotography and taking nightscapes. There is a nice little chapter on using the Deep Sky Stacker software. The chapter takes you through the basics of processing an image with DSS.

The book also includes a chapter on processing very short exposures; it does this by covering basic processing techniques that can be completed in most image processing software such as GIMP, Photoshop Elements, Deep Sky Stacker etc. These techniques include setting the black point, stretching the image, aligning histogram colour channels, adjusting color balance, using unsharp mask and changing the saturation settings.

Chapter 12 covers the different range of lightweight Azimuth and EQ mounts from all the main astronomy retailers including Meade, Celestron and Skywatcher. It also compares the two types of mount and the advantages and disadvantages of both.

There is a nice chapter entitled ‘Portable Observatories’ which talks about what you may want to pack when going on holiday or when flying abroad. The chapter details what you can get in a carry-on bag on commercial airlines and how to pack it all in.

The last chapter provides the reader with a list of sky objects to try imaging during the year, split into seasons then by months.

The appendices include how to plan an astrophotography imaging session, making lightweight mount tripod modifications, and about using a 4 SE mount with a wedge in equatorial mode.

Overall ‘Astrophotography on the Go’ is a nice book; it has a good mixture of both black and white and colour images throughout. I have not seen a book like this before which is dedicated to the travelling astrophotographer. It may not be for the seasoned astrophotographer traveller or person that frequently travels to star parties, but if you are thinking of travelling with your home setup or attending your first star party then this could be really useful.

Astrophotography on the Go is available at Amazon

Choosing and Using Astronomical Filters Book Review

Choosing and using astronomical filters book

Choosing and using astronomical filters bookEvery astronomer uses filters, whether you are an imager or an observer. At last there is now a book that covers all the different types of filters that you can use at night or during the day.

The book covers light pollution filters, planetary filters, solar filters, ND filters for lunar observing and the range of filters for Deep sky imaging.

The book starts by looking at all the different Wratten coloured visual filters and it talks about the different types of telescopes.
Chapter 3 covers lunar observing with Neutral Density filters, yellow, blue and polarizing filters. At the end of this chapter are some really nice lunar maps taken during the lunar calendar. Unfortunately they have been crammed into 2 pages and you can’t read the maps – shame. These maps should have been given their own pages.

Chapter 4 is all about using filters when observing and imaging planets. Each planet is discussed in detail as well as the different filters that work best with that planet. There are black and white images throughout the chapter.

Chapter 5 is all about solar filters, Herschel wedges, Mylar etc. Solar Continuum filters, Calcium K, Hydrogen Alpha and Neutral Density filters are discussed in detail. This chapter includes lots of colourful solar images.

Chapter 6 covers filters for astrophotography, including narrowband – Hydrogen Alpha, Hydrogen Beta, OIII and SII filters as well as broadband – luminance, red, green and blue filters. There are also details about UV/IR filters and sky glow filters.

Finally there is a small section on how to process your images. A good part of the end of the book lists what images you can view or image and which filters work best on those objects. Each object also has an image which is nice and a description. This section is well laid out and each object is given its own page.

Overall this is a very nice book, and the first one that concentrates solely on filters. The most useful part of this book for me is the list of objects and what filters work best on that object. IC, Messier and NGC objects are included in this sizeable list.

Concise Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects is available at Amazon

Concise Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects Book Review

Concise Catalog of Deep-Sky objects – Astrophysical information for 550 galaxies, clusters and nebulae. 2nd edition.

concise catalog of deep sky objects book This information book covers 520 northern hemisphere objects and 30 southern hemisphere objects. So the book covers the most common objects. This is the 2nd edition of the book, and this time the book contains images of the Messier objects.
The book begins with a small introduction describing what each piece of information against the object is about. The book is then divided into 3 sections, the Messier objects, NGC objects and the IC objects.

All 110 Messier objects are included, as well as 400 Herschel objects, 110 NGC objects and 30 southern hemisphere objects.
In the Messier section all M objects are accompanied by a black and white image.

The main information that accompanies each object is the constellation name, object type, RA and Dec co-ordinates, approx. transit date, distance from us, object’s age, apparent angular size and the objects magnitude. All objects also have a description/notes section.

Overall this is a good reference book and something you may pick up from time to time. It’s nice to see images of every Messier object in this edition, and they are all amateur, shame they are all in black and white though.

One way this book could be improved is if each object with an image was given its own page, as on a lot of objects you have to turn the page to see the corresponding image.

I think the objects chosen in each catalogue are really good. If I could have the ultimate book it would give basic information about the object, but very good astrophoto’s would accompany each object and then a write up by the imager of how that object was recorded would be perfect. But I know that’s a tall order and would take a long time to write. There is a 100 deep sky objects book, which is really good, it just needs enlarging.

Concise Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects is available at Amazon

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