Tag : book-review

Viewing and Imaging the Solar System Book Review

viewing and imaging the solar system

Viewing and Imaging the Solar System from Jane Clark is an easy to read beginners guide to viewing and imaging the Solar system. It explains in some detail the principles of the telescopes and the in’s and out of star maps, which are best to use in the garden on a cold dark night and which are best used indoors. One item I found interesting was the explanation of what to wear and why, which you don’t often see in Astronomy books.

‘Viewing and Imaging the Solar System’ goes on to explain telescope mounts, the different types and the advantages of Altitude – Azimuth such as a Dobsonian and Equatorial Mounts. There’s an explanation of how to carry out alignment of the Equatorial mount using polar scope.

The next chapter titled ‘Telescopes Binoculars and Light’ explains the principles of light. It covers the different types of lenses, convex and concave and it covers Eyepieces, Barlow Lenses, Binoculars and filters. The different types of telescope are described and the advantages of each type. The next chapter introduces the reader to photographing the solar system, explaining the hardware, the importance of focusing using a Hartmann and Bahtinov masks.

Photographing the Moon and planet is explained by outlining the different types of cameras such as a DSLR and Web cams. The pros and cons of each type are discussed as well. Then comes the processing of the images with the help of computer screen shots of software K3CCD and RegiStax. There is a great section on using Dark frames to remove the thermal noise on the CCD chip during processing.

The next few chapters’ deal with what you can realistically expect to see with the naked eye and a camera. The superior planets are covered in detail with the aid of the author images and explanations. Jupiter sections outlines how best to view the four moons through a telescope and observe the moons rotation of the planet with a number of detailed drawings. I will say that some of the accompanying photos were a little dark which made the surface detail hard to see clearly.

Chapter 8 completes the solar system with observing the Sun using different types of solar scope at the different wavelengths of the light. This section included white light, hydrogen alpha and details on solar spectra. The book finishes its tour of the solar system with Asteroids and Comets and observing the solar system from your armchair.

This book is quite strange as it covers a lot of different areas of astronomy. I do feel that this book is very much for the beginner. A beginner will get a lot out of reading this book, but I would prefer books that deal with specific in-depth topics.

The book an interesting read for the beginner but I feel its let down by the authors photographs.

Reviewed by Mick Jenkins

Buy from Amazon UK

3000 Deep Sky Objects – An Annotated Catalogue Book Review

3000 Deep Sky ObjectsIn this book from Springer part of the Patrick Moore series, Ted Aranda has chosen 3000 objects that he viewed over a number of years using his own homemade binocular telescope.

The book contains a number of different objects including bright stars, double stars, variable stars, galaxies, globular clusters, nebulae, open clusters and planetary nebulae.

The book begins with an introduction on how to use the book, what the author used to view the objects and what each parameter means in the book and how to use the catalogue itself.

The main catalogue of objects is in the second part of the book, where you will find the objects divided into the seasons.

Each deep-sky object entry shows you the classification of the object e.g. ga for galaxy. You then get the astronomical catalogue number, the RA and Dec co-ordinates and in what constellation the object exists. Depending on what object you are looking at there is then more information. This may include visual magnitude, size, separation sizes for double stars etc.

Under each object there is then a description and further notes on the object written by the author.

At the rear of the book is an appendix about how to make your own star atlas, as well as a nice chapter on how to build your own binocular telescope with some good colour images of the author’s telescope. An index listed by object is also included at the end of the book.

Overall this is quite a thick book at over 550 pages and it contains many objects, it’s very thorough and nicely laid out. But this book is not really for me, I like a lot of colourful images to see what it is I should be looking at. I would have liked to have had less objects in the book but instead have images with most of them, even if they were just black and white images.

3000 Deep Sky Objects is available at Amazon

Turn Left at Orion 4th Edition Book Review

Turn Left at OrionThe first editions of Turn Left at Orion were a massive best seller in the astronomy book category with over 100,000 copies sold. This is the latest 4th edition as of 2012. One of the major changes has been that this edition has been spiral bound, which makes it a lot easier to use when you are out in the dark, plus you are not going to break the spine of the book.

Turn Left at Orion is written for beginners with over 500 illustrations with large format diagrams showing how objects actually appear in telescope eyepieces.

Another good thing about Turn Left at Orion is that it includes both Northern and Southern hemispheres, so if you go on a long distance vacation to another hemisphere you can take the book with you and still use it.

The book begins with a few chapters on how to use the book and how to use your telescope, which are useful chapters for beginners. There is then a great chapter on The Moon. I best thing I like are the moon maps showing you details of the lunar surface for certain nights over the lunar months, there are also close-up images of certain features. A list of lunar eclipses worldwide up to 2025 is included.

There is then a section including all the planets including where to look in the sky for the planets during the year. The rest of the book is split into seasonal skies, divided into quarters. Each object shows you it via naked eye, then the view of the object in a finderscope, the view in a small telescope and the view in a Dobsonian telescope, with both these views duplicated showing what they would look like under a high powered eyepiece. Good descriptions of the objects are also included.

Don’t expect full colour images of the night sky objects, but there are still good sketched type pictures of the objects. Overall, I really like Turn Left at Orion especially if you want to learn the night sky. It’s also great if you want to know what objects will look like through various types of telescopes at various powers.

Turn Left at Orion is available at Waterstones



Astronomy Manual by Haynes Book Review

Astronomy Manual by Haynes – The Practical Guide to the Night Sky

Astronomy Manual

This Astronomy Manual by Haynes (yes the people who publish the car manuals) has an introduction by Sir Patrick Moore with the foreword by Dr Brian May.

The Astronomy Manual begins with details about everything in our solar system. The images and diagrams are very good, and easy to read and understand. The book reminds me of a type of colourful encyclopaedia. The Sun and each planet in turn is covered in full colour with images of the planets moons and with lots of information on each planet.

The Our Perspective chapter looks at where we are in the galaxy and this chapter covers Stars, Exoplanets, the Milky Way galaxy and more. On top of these, Quasars, the different types of galaxies and the Big Bang are also covered.

There are then two chapters split into amateur viewing and professional viewing. The amateur viewing chapter starts with naked eye viewing and how to read star charts and planispheres. This chapter includes some basic star charts and then takes the reader through some of the more common constellations in more depth. There is then information on binoculars and what to look for when purchasing a pair as well as how they work and how to get the best out of a set of binoculars for astronomical use. The book then talks about the various different types of telescopes that can be purchased and how to use Go-To telescopes and how to polar align your mount. The book then covers equipment accessories such as eyepieces, filters and lots of others astronomy accessories. There is an interesting section on the various types of astronomy computer software that can also be purchased.

One very interesting section in the amateur section is how to create your own observatory, and there are details on creating roll off roof observatories or using a Sky pod, shed or a dome as your observatory.

The professional viewing chapter covers all the major high end professional scopes that are sited around the world and those in space, such as the Hubble Space telescope, Spitzer and Chandra. Gamma Ray Bursts are covered here as well as imaging in the infrared. The final part talks about the possible future of telescopes.

There are several appendices in the book including lists about the constellations, as well as simple star maps. There is also a rather nice lunar map showing the features of the moon. There is also a list of the Messier objects for reference.

It’s nice to see an up to date book on Astronomy which even includes details about astronomy apps on the iPhone and Android smart phones. The book is also very up to date when it comes to the information on DSLR and CCD astrophotography. There is also a section on Webcam imaging which is a very cheap way to get into imaging the planets and the moon.

This is a very good overall book on Astronomy, as it contains a little bit of everything you ever really needed to know. This is definitely a book for beginners as well as those who have been into astronomy for a while.

Author: Jane A. Green
RRP: £19.99

The Haynes Astronomy Manual is available at Waterstones or directly from Haynes



Haynes Space Shuttle Manual Book Review

Haynes Space Shuttle ManualThis is the first astronomy/space based Haynes manual I have seen, and I am pleasantly surprised. I really didn’t know what to expect, I probably thought it was just going to be engineering drawings with lots of information on how to service and build your own space shuttle, a bit like the Haynes car manuals. But there is more to this book than just cross sections of the Space Shuttle.

There are some amazing colour photographs from NASA charting the initial testing and build of the shuttle, right through to the various missions of the shuttle. There are great images of the insides of the shuttle and of course there are some cross section diagrams of the shuttle with in-depth details on each of the sections of the shuttle and about all the dials on the flight deck.

The book begins with some early details on the Genesis project, with some great photos of the early missions and pilots. There is then a section on the building of the shuttle with images of the build from the beginning. There is then a chapter on the anatomy of the shuttle, with in-depth descriptions of each part in turn.

The space shuttles main tanks are covered as well in a separate chapter, including details on the build of the external tanks and the solid booster tanks. The following chapters then cover the flying of the shuttle and how the astronauts go about living on the shuttle. The book as you would expect then covers all of the main missions the space shuttle has completed.

This is a very interesting book of nearly 200 pages worth of information. The funny thing I liked was the title on the cover ‘NASA
Space Shuttle 1981 onwards (all models)’.

Overall this is a really nice book which contains an amazing amount of information about the NASA Space Shuttle. It’s also nice to see full colour images, and it’s a book you can actually read and not just look at the pictures!

If the Space Shuttle interests you then get this Haynes manual on the Space Shuttle, you won’t be disappointed.

Author: David Baker
RRP: £19.99

The Haynes Space Shuttle Manual is available at Waterstones or directly from Haynes



Cambridge Star Atlas

If you are looking for an easy to use star atlas then this is the only one you will need. It is so clearly laid out and easy to use it’s incredible. I can’t rate it highly enough.

Some people may prefer laminated pages, so they can be wiped clean, these are not. But this Star Atlas was designed for outdoor use though, it is spiral bound making it really easy to open out and turn back on its self.

The Cambridge Star Atlas contains a really good lunar map as well. The lunar features in the book are displayed in alphabetical order and in numerical order as they appear on the moon’s surface. The moon maps are also shown in mirror reversed order, as you would view it through an eyepiece.

The constellations are then shown for both the northern and southern latitudes across the various seasons. From here you then drill down into closer views of the constellations, which have page numbers watermarked on them, this denotes which page to jump to in order to see that part of the sky in full detail.

This star atlas also contains a handy list of the Messier objects, a list of the 96 brightest stars and also a list of the constellations.
At the rear of the book there are a number of pages showing all sky maps, the first one shows the constellations, then a distribution of open clusters, globular clusters, diffuse nebula, planetary nebulae and the distribution of galaxies.

The final table in the book contains a list of Exoplanets or extrasolar planets.

Overall this is a brilliant book, if you are looking for a Star Atlas or if you are bored of looking at a planetarium program on a computer screen to find your way around the night sky then buy this book, you won’t regret it.

The Cambridge Star Atlas is available at Waterstones

Observing The Moon Book Review

Observing The Moon BookObserving the Moon is a hardback book from Cambridge University Press by Gerald North. This is the second edition of the book. When I started reading the book I was thinking that it was going to be a boring book just about the moon, but how wrong I actually was. It does contain a lot more information, including information on how to image the moon, via a webcam and video camera.

The book begins by describing the moon, its phases, eclipses, gravity and tides as well as occultations. The book then discusses what sort of telescope you need to best view the moon, as well as buying advice and eyepiece types and what you may need if you want to do some moon drawings.

Observing the Moon then goes through what you need to image the moon, this is a great section, if a little dated in areas. The book mentions CCD cameras, DSLR cameras, video cameras and image processing – including stacking your moon images using Registax.

Observing the Moon also covers each area of the moon with descriptions, photographs and some drawings. I must admit when reading the book it was the first time I had ever seen a really good image of the far side of the moon, it had me mesmerised.

The appendices cover telescope collimation, field testing a telescope’s optics and how to polar align. The books images and drawings are all in black and white, but when discussing the moon this does not really matter.

Overall a great read, and please don’t think this book is just about the moon, as there is so much more in it, such as telescope buying advice and how to image the moon.

Observing the Moon is available at Waterstones


Stargazing Basics Book Review

Stargazing Basics BookStargazing Basics is a book for the beginner, it mainly covers what to look for when purchasing basic astronomy equipment including binoculars or your first telescope.

Stargazing Basics is divided into two main sections, the first describes the different types of telescopes you can buy and what to look for when purchasing binoculars. Every type of telescope is described, with a focus on those coming under a certain price bracket, in reality all those telescopes that you may choose when first making a purchase. But the first section is not just about telescopes, the book also briefly covers astronomy accessories which you may purchase at a later date.

Part two of the book entitled “What’s up There?” gives you an overview of the types of objects you may well see when using a beginner’s telescope. This is done using images and giving descriptions about the Moon, Sun, Planets, Nebulae, Galaxies, Stars etc.

There is a very large glossary at the rear of the book which takes up around 25 pages; this is a lot when the whole book is only 140 pages in total. But it can be very useful to have a glossary when you are starting out on as new topic and a lot of unknown words are used in the body of the book.

After the glossary there are some simple start charts you can use, as well as a list of the constellation names with descriptions.

Overall this is a very nice book for the beginner who wants to get into astronomy, it will certainly provide you with a lot of knowledge before you visit your local astronomy store and make a purchase of either binoculars or a telescope. Reading this book certainly would have helped me at the time.

It’s also nice to see that the author has not included images which represent objects what you won’t see through your first telescope. He has instead used his own images which mean you won’t be disheartened when you use your telescope for the first time and you don’t see in the eyepiece astronomy images like those produced by the big NASA telescopes.

Stargazing Basics is available at Waterstones


Observing the Universe Book Review

observing the universe bookObserving the Universe, A Guide to Observational Astronomy and Planetary Science is a full colour astronomy book which has been compiled by a team of experts from The Open University. The book has been designed for students who are undertaking observational work in astronomy and planetary science, but is suitable for amateur astronomers.

The book begins with looking at the basics of our planet and its rotation together with the orbit of our planets in the solar system. There is a small section on how to use astronomical software programs as well as planispheres. The next section describes the different types of telescopes and how they work as well as the different types of telescope mountings.

There is a section on spectrographs and astronomical detectors, which are really CCD cameras. There are some interesting sections on reducing CCD data including details on bad pixels, bias and dark subtraction and even flat fielding.

The next sections of the book are about photometry and spectroscopy, there are scary equations in this section. Photometry is the technique of measuring the brightness of astronomical objects.

The second half of the book is given over to preparing for practical work in astronomy. This section really is for students or amateurs who want to start doing astronomical maths so to speak. This section instructs you how to keep observation records, and how to deal with experimental uncertainties, such as calculating standard deviations. There is also information on how to use calculators and computers and how to make use of graphs for astronomical research.

The back of the book contains answers to the questions asked at the end of every section and chapter of the book, there is also an extensive glossary.

Overall, Observing the Universe is a very good book, and it’s in colour. This makes it a great beginners astronomy book or for a student or someone who wants to get further into astronomical science and start to gather and work with astronomical scientific data.

Observing the Universe is available at Waterstones


The Handbook of CCD Astronomy Book Review

The Handbook of CCD AstronomyThe Handbook of CCD Astronomy sounds a perfect title for an amateur to learn everything about how to use my Meade CCD camera with my telescope. Thing is, this is no book for the amateur astronomer, but really for the research astronomers, academics and professionals.

The book begins by telling you everything about CCDs including the manufacturing process, the various types of CCDs and how they work. There are also some interesting sections on CCD pixel size, pixel binning as well as flat fielding. The book covers some very in-depth CCD topics such as how to calculate read noise and gain, and signal to noise ratio.

The book contains a great deal of graphs, diagrams and mathematical equations, well over my head as an amateur astronomer, but I did find some parts of the book good for explaining certain things such as how CCDs work and about flat fields.

The chapters in the book are titled CCD manufacturing and operation, Characterisation of Charge-Coupled Devices, CCD imaging, Photometry and astrometry, Spectroscopy with CCDs and CCDs used in space and at short wavelengths.

The Handbook of CCD Astronomy ends with a CCD reading list, CCD manufacturers list and some basics of image displays and colour images.

Handbook of CCD Astronomy is available at Waterstones