Tag : book-review

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