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.


Astrophotography on the Go 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



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