Tag : astronomy-book-review

Building and Using Binoscopes Book Review

building and using binoscopes book reviewThis is a book review of Building and using Binoscopes by Norman Butler. If you love observing the heavens and have ever tried using a binoviewer then you will know how building a binoscope would be the next logical step.

Binoviewers are binocular type contraptions that fit into your telescope viewer and provide you with two eyepieces to look through just like a pair of binoculars. The only downside to using binoviewers is that you need to purchase 2 of every eyepiece and make sure they match. But the upside is that the viewing is a lot more comfortable, you can open both eyes and doing so gives the heavenly object you are viewing an almost 3D feel. I can really recommend giving a pair a go.

But one step on from binoviewers is actually bolting together two telescopes and putting them close enough together so that you can look through both at the same time (mega binoculars!).

Binoscopes are not a new idea, they have been around since the 1920’s. This book covers binoscopes in several different ways – from the point of view of building them yourself from scratch, buying two telescopes and mounting them together or actually purchasing a binoscope from a well known manufacturer like Vixen.

The book begins with the question, Why Binoscopes? It then goes on to look at optical design for binoscopes. There is then a chapter called Binoculars are Binoscopes, which looks at the similarities between the two as well as looking at building downward binocular mounts.

Building and Using Binoscopes is packed full of weird and wonderful images of various binoscopes that have been homemade from around the world. There is help and ideas on making your own binoscopes themselves as well making the mount and drive for them.

The single appendix includes a range of astronomical equations.

This is a very quirky book, and a topic I would have never thought there was a printed book on. But if building a binoscope interests you whether it’s from scratch or by putting together two purchased telescopes then this book is really for you.

Buy this book from Amazon UK

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.

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

Photoshop Astronomy Book Review

Photoshop AstronomyPhotoshop can be a hard program to get used to when it comes to preparing your astronomy images. Plus there are so many shortcuts and ‘black box’ type actions that imagers must use to make the kind of ‘woweee’ type images. But where do you learn all the tips and tricks, there certainly are not many training courses (though the Ian King ones are good!) there are no DVDs, and hardly any books on the subject. But at last there is a book on using Photoshop for Astronomy.

The book begins by looking at the digital darkroom, and everything you have in it. This includes your monitor and how to colour calibrate it, external hard drives and photo printers and accessories. There is also a section describing the details of the various digital image file formats. At the end of this chapter there is a simple recommended image processing workflow.

Chapter Two covers colour management, and how to calibrate your monitor and your printer, soft proofing, and it covers the various colour models – such as RGB, CMYK and HSB.

Photoshop Astronomy is an amazingly detailed book on how to manipulate your astronomy images to get the best out of them. Each step is shown in great detail.

The only downside to the book is that none of the images are in colour, only black and white. When you are paying nearly £50 for the book new, you would have thought we could have had some colour images and screenshots.

A CD accompanies the Photoshop Astronomy book which includes lots of different images to work on in order to hone your imaging skills. The CD contains example images from Chapter 2 to Chapter 12. The author has also included the final images on the CD, so you can see how they should or could look once completed.

My copy of Photoshop Astronomy was purchased from SCS Astro

Cosmic Challenge Book Review

Cosmic ChallengeCosmic Challenge contains nearly 500 pages and lists over 500 star targets for you to find. The book is aimed at both beginners and advanced astronomers alike, as the book contains a mix of Solar System and deep-sky targets to hunt for.

The first 25 pages of the book tell us about our own eyes and how they work, as well as information on binoculars, collimation, using baffling/flocking, eyepieces, the best filters to use on what objects and the things to think about when it comes to your observing site. This includes information on the jet stream, the Pickering seeing scale, the Bortle scale of darkness and more.

Cosmic Challenge is then split into objects you can hunt out with your naked eyes, binoculars, small telescopes (3 to 5 inch) and giant binoculars, medium telescopes (6 to 9.25 inches), large telescopes (10 – 14 inches) and very large/monster telescopes (15+ inches).

I think it was a great idea to divide the book up this way, as you don’t want to find yourself looking for an object like Palomar 1 with a 3 inch telescope. Having the naked eye chapter also means you don’t even need a telescope to benefit from Cosmic Challenge. Then if you do decide to invest in some large binoculars or a larger telescope you can then come back to this book and try hunting some more elusive targets.

There are also then subsections within each size of telescope required, informing you in what season the object is visible.
Each of the 188 targets in the book are well laid out and begin with a large title with RA and Dec co-ordinates, the name of the constellation and magnitude information. There is then a diagram within the constellation (if applicable) of where to find the object. Each target also contains a very nice description of the target and it’s background plus tips on how best to view it.

There are three appendices. The first appendix is called the cosmic challenge, this displays all of the 188 targets into a large table for easy reference. The second appendix is a guide of suggested further reading whilst the last appendix supplies you with 100 challenging double stars to try and locate.

Cosmic Challenge is a very fun book, what makes it so good is that the layout is very pleasing on the eye and objects are really easy to find in the book (maybe not so easy in the sky!). Another great thing about Cosmic Challenge is that the book has longevity as I mentioned before. As you could use the book at various times of the year as the sky changes, and again if you decide to upgrade your telescope aperture. Also you don’t even need any astronomical hardware to use this book, just your own eyes as it contains 21 naked eye challenges.

The Cosmic Challenge book is available at Waterstones

The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration Book Review

atlas of lunar exploration bookThe International Atlas of Lunar Exploration is one of the most detailed books on the lunar missions I have ever seen. If you want a book that goes into so much depth, then this is for you, that is, if you can handle the expensive retail price of around £100 for this book.

The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration provides details of every spacecraft mission to the moon since the dawn of the space age. Each mission is illustrated with a combination of maps and annotated photographs. Usefully the lunar missions are listed in chronological order through the book, so it’s easy to follow the history.

The book includes such information as how landing sites were selected.  The book also includes details on lunar missions that never happened. There is even material in this book which has never been published before together with specially created panoramic lunar photographs from every lunar mission.

This is a large sized coffee table type book which contains over 440 pages packed full of information. The panoramic photographs are truly stunning and for me a high point of the book is the detailed information and maps about the EVA routes and exactly where core samples were taken.

There are some really great moon mosaic images and details on exactly where flags, TV cameras, solar wind collectors and antenna were placed. There are even details on where the lunar landers should have landed and where they actually landed.

As you can probably tell from my lists of information, this book has everything. If your interests lie with the Moon and the lunar missions then this would make a great book for you to marvel at.

Practical Astronomy Book Review

Practical Astronomy BookPractical Astronomy is a straight forward guide to the hobby of astronomy. If you are a beginner to astronomy then this is a perfect book to pick up and read.

The book begins by introducing you to astronomy and teaching you the night’s sky and how to guide yourself about.  There is also a chapter on choosing the right astronomy equipment for you, including information on various telescope types. Practical astronomy ends the first section entitled “Introducing Astronomy” by advising you on how to record your observations via cameras and web cams. This section of the book also contains a section containing star charts.

The second part of Practical Astronomy works through “Exploring the Sky” and the book gives a chapter to viewing the moon, sun, observing planets, outer planets, the stars and deep sky objects.

Each chapter takes you through each type of object with full colour images, tables and diagrams.  This type of book is perfect for the beginner as it gives the reader an insight into the hobby of astronomy as most areas of amateur astronomy are covered. There are also star charts and moon maps included as well as a small glossary and resources list.

Practical Astronomy is available at Waterstones

The Brightest Stars Book Review

The Brightest Stars Book The Brightest Stars book is all about twenty-one of the brightest stars visible from Earth. The Brightest Stars instructs you how to find the stars and the best way to see them.

Each section about each star contains information about the history of the star and legends that are connected with each star. There are also information on star distances, mass and composition. The book also includes star charts.

The Brightest Stars begins with a chapter on stars in the sky which asks the question How Bright is Bright? There is also information on the locations and yearly motions and names of the stars. The final part is about how to see stars better when looking at the skies, using your eyes and telescopes.

Chapter two is entitled Stars in the Universe which includes parts, structure, distances, and motions of stars in the universe, as well as the varieties of stars and the lives and death of stars.

The following stars are contained within the book; Sirius, Canopus, Alpha Centauri, Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Achernar, Betelgeuse, Beta Centauri, Alpha Crucis, Altair, Aldebaran, Spica, Antares, Pollux, Fomalhaut, Beta Crucis, Deneb and Regulus.

There are six appendices in total and a glossary in the book; with the appendices you get the positions of the stars via RA and Dec co-ordinates as well as magnitude measurements. You also get the masses of the stars and a list of the 200 brightest stars. There are also many other star information tables in the appendices.

The Brightest Stars is a great book if you want to learn a lot more about stars (obviously), the books images are in black and white though but it is nice that each star is given it’s own section which makes the book easier to read.

The Brightest Stars is available at Waterstones

Digital Astrophotography Book Review

Digital Astrophotography BookDigital Astrophotography is a very clear, up to date and concise book on how to accomplish digital astrophotography.  The book details four main ways to take images, either via a digital compact camera, a webcam, with an SLR/DSLR or via a CCD camera.

It was refreshing to read a book which was up to date with some really nice colour screenshots and image included.  Most of the other books on astrophotography have not been updated, as they only discussed using either early webcams or manual SLR cameras.

Each chapter of Digital Astrophotography covers digital compact cameras, SLR cameras, webcams and CCD imagers. In each chapter you get information on the type of equipment, what to look out if you are considering a purchase, and how much you will likely pay (in dollars) for the equipment. Finally there is a table detailing the advantages and disadvantages of each piece of equipment.

Each piece of equipment is then covered in detail, including how to set up your piece of imaging equipment and how to take images, and how to process them. For example in the webcam chapter you are instructed how to set up and use the Philips SPC900 webcam and how to use VLounge, Registax software and Photoshop in order to obtain your finished images.

The final part of the book takes you through using the software program AstroArt to manipulate your astrophotography images. There is also a website to accompany the book which contains images you can download to practice on and follow the examples with.
Overall Digital Astrophotography by Stefan Seip is a brilliant book and one I read cover to cover.  If you are after a beginner’s type book about digital astrophotography and you want to learn how to image using a compact camera, webcam, DSLR or CCD imager then I can recommend this book.

How to use a computerised telescope is available at Waterstones