ASTRONOMY BOOK REVIEWS
Last updated: 18 September 2011
By popular demand, here is a page for ETX users to read review of astronomy books submitted by other ETX users.
Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs (09/18/11)
Firefly "Moonwatch" (05/15/09)
Great Astronomers (10/31/08)
Real Astronomy with Small Telescopes (10/04/07)
Objects in the Heavens (11/07/08)
Sky Pocket Atlas, Double Stars for Small Telescopes (08/12/06)
Astrophotography w/DSLR Cameras (08/08/06)
Hatfield Lunar Atlas (08/25/05)
Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy (01/18/05)
Photoshop for Astrophotographers (9/15/03)
Solar Observing Techniques
Choosing & Using a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
Through the Telescope
E=MC^2 A Biography of The World's Most Famous Equation
Trained Sky Star Atlas
Astronomer's Computer Companion
Ever Changing Sky: A Guide to the Celestial Sphere
From City Lights to Deep Space
Astronomy with Small Telescopes
Online CCD Astrophotography book
Discover The Stars
Solar Astronomy Handbook
Advanced Skywatching: The Backyard Astronomer's Guide to Starhopping and Exploring the Universe
Turn Left at Orion
Splendors of the Universe A Practical Guide to Photographing the Night Sky
Practical Astronomy A User Friendly Handbook for Sky Watchers
Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide
Hatfield SCT Lunar Atlas - Photographic Atlas for Meade, Celestron and other SCT Telescopes
Edited by Jeremy Cook
Published by Springer 2005. Hardcover. 122 pages. 16 hand drawn illustrations and 106 black and white plates. ISBN: 1-85233-749-4.
Michael Morris (email@example.com) reports: "I have been an active amateur observer for nearly five years now. For the majority of this time I've been using my ETX 90 to observe a variety of objects, my favourites being open clusters, double stars and the Moon. To help me improve my lunar observing I decided I needed three books. A book to explain what it is I should look at and why ('A Modern Moon' by Charles Wood); an introductory field observing guide to tell me when I could see features of interest ('Discover the Moon' by Lacroux and Legrand) and a good field lunar atlas. After much research I narrowed the choice down to two books, The Hatfield Lunar Atlas or Rukl's Atlas of the Moon. After getting a copy of Antonin Rukl's classic atlas out of my local library I concluded that, despite it being very comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, this 224 page tome was simply too heavy for me to cart around as a field atlas. I thus bought the much slimmer 122 page Hatfield Atlas and was very satisfied with it. The book consists of a series of 16 simple line drawings showing the outlines of all the major and interesting features that can be seen by the visual observer with a small telescope under good seeing conditions. Each of these easy to read, yet detailed plates is supported by at least five large black and white photographic plates showing the relevant area under a range of lighting and libration conditions and sometimes areas of particular interest are magnified in smaller supporting plates. This was ideal as the view through my ETX 90 with my trusty University Optics 7mm orthoscopic eyepiece almost exactly matched the field of view of each of Henry Hatfield's original plates. But alas, this marriage made in heaven was not to last. The problems came when the clouds cleared two weeks after buying the book and I tried to use the Atlas as a field guide. It was hopeless. The reason was really very simple. The view through my ETX 90 Maksutov was North at the top and East to the left. Hatfield's book showed South at the top and East to the left. Thus the view through my telescope was a mirror image of the plates in the atlas! (Rukl's Atlas suffers from the same problem). Whilst not impossible to use, the mental gymnastics involved in trying to relate what was on the page of the atlas with what I could see through the eyepiece was incredibly time-consuming, confusing and mentally exhausting. Thankfully the answer to all my lunar observing prayers have now been answered; a version of Hatfield's Lunar Atlas orientated for users of SCTs and other telescopes that produce similarly orientated images at the eyepiece. I can now identify objects with ease and the excellent plates show me how the appearance of features can change over a range of lighting conditions, making identification much easier. At the back of the book is an excellent index of lunar formations, giving each feature's exact position on the relevant drawing. If you use a Schmidt-Cassegrain, Maksutov or a refractor with a diagonal for observing the Moon I can thoroughly recommend this book. For owners of small instruments telescopes, this may be the only lunar atlas you'll ever need. For those of you with large aperture telescopes, I would still recommend this book as a great field guide and you could use the newly reprinted Rukl's Atlas of the Moon or a copy of the Virtual Moon Atlas software where very high levels of detail are required."
A Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy
by P. Clay Sherrod and Thomas L. Koed
Published by Dover Publications, Inc.
This book by Clay Sherrod, someone who is likely very familiar to visitors to this Site, was first published in 1981. This new Dover edition is a reprint of that book. The purpose of the book is to provide amateur astronomers with some valuable astronomical projects and techniques to contribute to the body of knowledge in our search for knowledge about the universe. A secondary purpose is to keep the amateur astronomer interested in the sky once the newness of the sights seen through the telescope wears off. While some of the information is over 20 years out of date, much of the book is still valid today. Some sources of data may be inaccurate (such as some mailing addresses) but the book is still a good reference covering many topics of interest to the amateur astronomer. These topics are (from the Table of Contents):
1 - Selection of a Telescope
2 - Instrument Setup and Maintenance
3 - Observations of Meteors
4 - Comets: A Guide to Observations, Photography, and Discovery
5 - Amateur Studies of the Sun
6 - Lunar Topography
7 - Lunar Occultations
8 - Mars: The Red Planet
9 - Jupiter: An Amateur's Guide to Research Projects
10 - Observations of Saturn
11 - Visual Photometry of the Minor Planets
12 - Studies of Variable Stars
13 - An Introduction to Photoelectric Photometry
14 - Astrophotography for the Amateur Astronomer
There is also a good glossary and several appendices of useful tables, blank observation forms for many objects, and some constellation guides (which are short versions of some of the Constellation Guides available on this Site.
Each chapter includes examples of observations and explanations of the techniques and "doing the math" where some math is required. The book was written before the days of amateur computerized GOTO telescopes and inexpensive (relatively) large aperture telescopes but many of the projects and techniques are just as fun and useful as they were 20 years ago. If you have progressed from just being a spectator of the universe and are looking for something new to do with your ETX or other telescope, checkout this excellent book by Dr. Clay Sherrod.
Edward Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org) adds: "I pick this book up at Barnes and Nobles yesterday and I think it hits the spot for the amateur scientist want to be out there. It begins with the basics on the differences on telescopes and there properties, which most beginner books do, but then switches gears into a how to book for amateur astronomy science. The book covers telescope differences, alignment, observing comets, meteors, planets, moon, sun, minor planets, variable stars, as well as astrophotography and photoelectric photometry. I find the book to be a guide on how to do real science with you backyard telescope. The more read the book the more I like it. P. Clay Sherrod and Thomas L. Koed give you the basic knowledge in an uncomplicated way that is easy to understand and with helpful tips. The only think I have come across that lacks some detail, is in the beginning on polar alignments. The books does not really detail-out wedges and their setup for polar alignment. The book assumes you have set the wedge up properly to start with, which is a big assumptions for most new scope owners. A paragraph on wedges and their setup would have made the chapter complete. All in all I would have to recommend this book for people that would like to do some real science with there new telescope other than just a fun hobby. Why not do both!"
Solar Observing Techniques
by Chris Kitchin
Published by Springer in their Practical Astronomy Series
Are you interested in observing the Sun, the nearest star to the Earth? If so, you should first get this book. Even if you are already viewing the Sun using your ETX or DS telescope you should consider getting this book. The book covers precautions you should always take, observations you can make (and what equipment is needed to make them), various tips and techniques for visual and photographic observations, and some solar observing projects you can undertake. It has a good explanation of the Sun and what features can be seen with what equipment. There are complete descriptions of the various filters and observational tools for solar observing, with the right amount of emphasis on safety. You can learn a lot from this book and you will likely find yourself wanting to observe our nearest star more often.
The book has many photographs of the Sun, including several made with ETX telescopes. There is even one from your Mighty ETX Site host.
From City Lights to Deep Space
Rod Mollise is a great author of astronomical works (see my review of his Choosing and Using a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope below). He recently released From City Lights to Deep Space on the Internet at http://www.mdnights.com/html/article2.html. I urgent every DS and ETX user to grab this collection of essays while it is available. To quote from his Introduction:
"The essays which follow were written with one goal in mind: helping the novice observer find deep sky objects which can be rewardingly viewed from light polluted backyards with small telescopes--and I mean really small telescopes! Most of the deep sky denizens presented here should look pretty good even in 4" reflectors! I know this for a fact, because I didn't rely on fading memories of these objects! I got my 4.25" Edmund Scientific 'Palomar Junior' (!) f11 reflector out of storage and reobserved many of these wonders with this tiny old telescope (and was amazed at what it could do)!"
It is this goal that makes this collection an excellent addition to any ETX or DS user's library. And you can't beat the price! Free, except for download time. It is a 3.5MB PDF file, so you'll need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.
What about the ETX-60AT user? As Rod points out, "...don't despair if all you have is a 60mm 'department store refractor'. As time goes by you will be absolutely astounded at the celestial wonders this humble instrument can reveal...". And the ETX-60AT is certainly better than a "department store refractor". Of course, the larger the telescope, the better. But even the 90mm and 127mm ETX models will be able to see most of the objects Rod describes, depending, of course, on the sky conditions. Not all observations in the collection were done with small telescopes. Some were done with large telescopes but Rod assures us that these will be visible even in small telescopes.
The collection starts out with a short essay on "Basic Skills". This covers telescopes, eyepieces, finderscopes, star atlases, and other accessories. It is not an indepth discussion of these topics, but rather an overview that seems intended to ensure that the small telescope user has the right tools, and therefore the confidence that the views described in the later essays can be seen in YOUR telescope.
The collection then begins a discussion of many worthwhile deep sky objects, organized by Season (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter). Some objects have not only "word pictures" of what you'll see but also locator star charts, photos, and drawings made at the eyepiece.
There are three appendices. One on "Special Techniques" for observing deep sky objects, including a discussion of filters. The next on "Finding Directions in the Sky", a worthwhile topic for newcomers to amateur astronomy, which goes into the geometry of the sky. And lastly, "Object Classification", so that you'll better understand some of the abbreviations and codes on celestial objects.
If you like Dr. Clay Sherrod's "Constellation Guides" that are available on this ETX site, you'll like Rod Mollise's essays. Check it out. And send Rod an email at RMOLLISE@aol.com thanking him for making it available.
Choosing and Using a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope
by Rod Mollise
Published by Springer in their Practical Astronomy Series
This is a GREAT book! If you love your ETX but plan to someday move up to an 8" or larger telescope, get this book. If you love your ETX and don't plan to move up to a larger telescope, get this book. In over 350 pages Rod covers a lot of territory (and sky). This book is subtitled "A Guide to Commercial SCTs and Maksutovs" and that is exactly what it is. Rod explains the designs and uses for these telescopes, tells you how using them feels (I love his chapter on the first night out with a new telescope), tells you how to use them, and what you can see and not see. He discusses accessories, astrophotography, and maintenance and cleaning. Rod's writing style is never preaching and always easy to read.
Even though you may have an ETX-90RA, ETX-90EC, or ETX-125EC, there is a lot for you in this book. Highly recommended!!!
by Stephen F. Tonkin
Published by Springer in their Practical Astronomy Series
There are many FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions pages) on the web, including the one on this site. So why a book on FAQs? Why not? This book covers in one place all the commonly asked questions and some not so commonly asked ones, and it does it in sufficient depth to actually be useful. It covers equipment, setting up, getting the best out of your optics, observing, celestial geometry, dew, cold weather, and includes some common formulae. If you don't have immediate access to the Web when you want to look up something, you may find that having this small (100 pages) book is just what you need. This is a good book for beginners and even long time amateur astronomers will find some of the information useful.
Astronomy with Small Telescopes
Stephen F. Tonkin, Editor
Published by Springer in their Practical Astronomy Series
If you have read through the book's Table of Contents on the book announcement page then you have some appreciation of the content. This is a (mostly) unbiased review of the book to tell you why this book is valuable to DS and ETX users. In this book real amateur astronomers tell you what they like, how they observe, what tips they have learned, and modifications they have made to improve their telescopes. There is information on increasing tripod stability, improving finderscopes and their mounting, what types of eyepieces are good for what types of observations, dealing with light glare (internal reflections), and much more. Taken as a whole, this book provides a lot of useful information no matter what size and type of telescope you use. When you read the chapter on upgrading a 60mm refractor you can pick up lots of useful tips that can improve your ETX-90 or -125EC as well as your ETX-60AT and ETX-70AT. This is true of nearly all of the chapters (with the obvious exception of the one on radio astronomy). And nearly every chapter describes what can be observed and HOW to observe various types of celestial (and terrestrial) objects. In particular, the chapter on deep sky observing is applicable to all small telescopes (and even larger ones). Some chapters discuss astrophotography techniques that are applicable to the ETX and DS scopes. If you have been keeping up on the contents of this ETX site since it first went online in September 1996 then the ETX chapter (by your humble webmaster) will likely be old-hat to you. But that shouldn't keep you from purchasing this book. You can always (carefully) cut out that chapter and send the pages to me; they should make lovely wallpaper for my telescope corner! As stated on the back cover of the book:
Stephen Tonkin has gathered the experience of users of small telescopes to provide this insight into just what is possble -- whether you're a newcomer to astronomy or simply need a telescope you can always take along with you.
So, buy this book. For yourself, not for me.
by Jeffrey R. Charles
Springer "Practical Astronomy" series
This 301 page book covers the entire range of astrophotography from fixed cameras to piggyback to deep sky. There are many great tips and techniques discussed in detail with actual examples that are applicable to ETX and DS owners. The appendices have good info on exposure guides and checklists to help you remember things. Portions of the book go beyond what can be done by most ETX/DS users (although we've seen some amazing examples recently) but that doesn't detract from its value. The Table of Contents really provides the best list of what's covered:
Chapter 1 - Photography Basics
Chapter 2 - Astrophotography Basics
Chapter 3 - Calculating Focal Length, f/ratio, etc.
Chapter 4 - What to Expect from Your Equipment
Chapter 5 - Travel and Astrophotography
Chapter 6 - Astrophotography Without a Sidereal Drive
Chapter 7 - Astrophotography With a Sidereal Drive
Chapter 8 - Guided Astrophotography Through a Telescope
Chapter 9 - Photographing Astronomical Events
Chapter 10 - After You Take Your Astrophotos
The only chapter I found disappointing was the last one; I was hoping for more on digital editing. The author notes that this is a subjecty worthy of its book so he only discusses some basics. But overall I found this book to be a worthwhile resource and I highly recommend it if you want to get serious about Astrophotography, even with the ETX and DS telescopes.
Subject: online ccd astrophotography book Sent: Saturday, February 10, 2001 20:56:16 From: email@example.com (Robert E. Eisenman) I own a Meade etx90 and enjoy your website. I have found the site to be a perpetual source of inspiration and ideas. I was surfing the web today and found a link to an online astrophotography book. www.newastro.com/ I once bought and read a book called 'multimedia madness' which was written by Ron Wodaski the author of the online astrophotography web course. I enjoyed his book and went on to a hobby level interest in multimedia. My astrophotography with the Meade is rather limited although I find the scope to be a convenient and quick source of entertainment. CCD imaging is beyond my price range at this time but for $9.95 the web subscription seems to be a good deal. Attached are three files. One file is an animated gif file I created after reading Ron Wadowski's Multimedia Madness book (a 360 degree of frosty the snowman). The second is an animated gif sequence of the Mount Washington cog railway taken using the Meade etx90 (prime focus) from the base of the mountain. The third is a picture of the moon taken with the Meade etx 90 using eyepiece projection using a 35 mm camera (converted to greyscale with Micrografx). I use Ulead GIF animator 4.0, VideoFramer from Flickerfree and Micrografx Picture Publisher for image and animation construction. Sincerely, Bob
Subject: Book review comments Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 20:45:36 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard B. Emerson) Somewhere along the line I recall seeing a recommendation, in the WMETXS book review section, for Through the Telescope by Patricia L. Barnes-Svarney. I have a copy of the book and it's been consigned to the "keep the dining room table from wobbling" heap. It suffers from one of the poorer jobs of editing I've seen in a while (my own work included!). Captions are wrong; a picture of an antique refractor is labeled as a Dobsonian and an another antique reflector is labeled as a refractor. There are casual exchanges of the term focal length and focal ratios in the text. The list of outright errors goes on and depressingly on. People would be far better off to buy Terry Dickinson's NightWatch or The Backyard Astronomer's Guide (with Alan Dyer), even though it could use an update on prices and products. Dated though it may be, it's still possible to buy a new set of Burnham (hardbound) for $5 from the Astronomy Book Club and they toss Raymo's 365 Starry Nights into the deal. Buy one other book from ABC and you can quite the club and be way ahead on the cost of this useful collection. Check out their sign-up promotion on the web site (or in Astronomy magazine ads) for details. Cheers, RickMike here: I have "Through the Telescope" in a large stacks of "books to be read". The Burnham volumes are handy at times. I got mine through the Astronomy Book Club (and I'm still a member).
Save your time on Through the Telescope. My guess is the original edition was probably an at least acceptable but somewhat drier version with an attempt to survey almost all of amateur astronomy. The co-author, Michael A. Porcellino, is actually the late Michael A. Porcellino; it's hard to know what he wrote, what Ms. Barnes-Svarney wrote, and what Prentice-Hall boogered in editing the current edition. I bought the book thinking it'd save me the cost of Dickinson & Dyer. I got about a quarter of the way through and gave up after hitting too many outright errors; I simply don't trust the book to get even basic information right at this point. Every so often I see reviews in S&T where a reviewer says a book or program commits similar types of mistakes and I think "oh, can it be really be that bad?" In this case, it can. Cheers, Rick
Mike here: I finally read this book. I didn't note any errors in the year 2000 edition. While I can't completely recommend this book as something for everyone, I will say that as I was reading it I was reminded of my first couple of years as an amateur astronomer and the excitement of my new hobby. I would grab every book on astronomy that looked like it was at a level I could understand (I was still a teenager then). This book is at a pretty simple level and yet instills the excitement I remember from my early days as an amateur. It does touch on just about everything a new amateur astronomer would want to read about, from how the eye works, some optics, tips on observing, what to observe, and what to expect. Whether the information is ultimately useful or just enlightening, only the reader will be able to state. There is some info that is dated but even that (and the pictures) were interesting to me. Don't dismiss this book too quickly, especially if you receive it as a gift.
Subject: Book review
From: email@example.com (Paul Valent)
Deciding that the best way to get back in the astronomy game would be by doing a little reading, I have come across a book that is a good source of star charts and general information. Discover The Stars by Richard Berry, Harmony Books, takes you on a 12 month tour of the heavens highlighting the best that each month has to offer with text and a chart for that month. In addition, at the end of the book, there are 23 additional charts and text that go into more detail along with suggestions for viewing different areas of the sky by season. For only $12.95 this is a good book to start with if you need some help with what you should be looking at in the night time sky.
Subject: Book review From: firstname.lastname@example.org Hi all, This has nothing to do with the ETX, however, I though I'd share. In math class we are learing synthetic division. Seeing as I have the class for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, I decided to redirect my attention from my normal Algebra nap to a book I recieved for Christmas. Actually, I noticed one of my friends had also recieved the book as a gift and had started reading it, so I decided to give mine a try. On the back cover William H. McNeill says "I found it so engrossing that I finished it in one go." As a 16 year old who reads little other than the required Shakespeare of High School, I will attest this boks is one of the best I have ever read. It is called "E=MC^2 A Biography of The World's Most Famous Equation" by David Badanis. Even if you are not into Einstien, his relativity, physics, or the 'hows' and 'whys' of astronomy, I still recomend it. It is VERY light reading which is odd for a book of it's nature. Nonetheless I read it in less then 3 hours (and I'm on the slow side of average reading speed.) The book is very informative and interesting. I have already recomended that my library purchases it, and recommend to my family and friends that it be read. Now I recomend it to you! This is an excelent book and can make a fine gift. I find it well worth the publisher's price of $25.00. By no exageration, I would have paid twice that. geeze listen to me, you'd think I wrote the book. I didn't, I just enjoyed it emensly. Title: "E=mc^2 A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation" Author: David Badanis Publisher: Copyright 2000,Walker Publishing Company Inc. Price: $25.00 (publisher's list price) $20.00 through amazon.com (see below) Location: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802713521/qid=979088734 /sr=2-1/ref=sc_b_1/103-6340250-8625442 Clear Skies, Joe Rodricks, Einstien Fan
Mike here: Couple of books new users might want to consider:
"Practical Astrophotography" by Jeffrey R. Charles, 2000, Springer-Verlag
"Through the Telescope" by Patricia L. Barnes-Svarney, 2000, McGraw-Hill
Reviews and Book Recommendations are available from The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
From: email@example.com (Keith Soehn)
here are a few comments on a recent book I've purchased. Sample image attached.
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Constellation Guidebook, Antonin Rukl, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., $14.95 ($21.95 CDN), paperback,1996.
As someone new to astronomy, I wanted to get a book that gave me an overview of all the constellations and what deep sky objects I would expect to find and where. Though this book doesnt deal with the planets or the moon, as far as the constellations go, I thought this book is a standout. From the alphabetical constellation maps (color-coded for each hemisphere) where every major star is named, to overviews of each constellation, to the illustrations! (no photographs) of major objects along with particular constellations, to mythological depictions from the Hevelius atlas, to the big dipper provided as scale, to advice and hints for beginning astronomers, to a general introduction to the celestial equator and star types, one is provided with a very good map of the night sky in a well designed format.
Text, illustrations and graphic design was done by the author and the book is printed on high quality gloss paper. Dimensions; 6 x 8 1/4.
Constellation Guidebook, Antonin Rukl, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., $15.99, Observing Guide.
This is a book devoted to the constellations. A map is provided for every constellation with interesting object contained and text about how it was named along with a little mythology. Also included are artist images of the interesting objects, the Big Dipper provided for scale, and a map of its location compared to surrounding constellations. It is a handy little book that is easy to use in the field and/or to plan a nights viewing.
One of the things about star atlases that I dont like is that the constellations dont have lines connecting the stars. Of course Im not sure Id like lines through my map. Perhaps transparent overlays with the lines would be a good idea. This book has the lines connecting the stars and has every constellation. Sometimes such and such object will be passing through such and such constellation that youve never heard of that isnt in the monthly sky maps. This book is a good reference for the constellations.
The Trained Sky Star Atlas
Rigel Systems provided a copy of their newly released "The Trained Sky Star Atlas" for my review. My first reaction was that it was essentially a streamlined "Norton's Star Atlas" (my standard printed reference for star maps). However, it turns out that having a quality streamlined star atlas is actually a good thing. The 8.5x11-inch atlas is printed on high quality heavy paper, which should allow it to survive many years of field use. It starts out with a good explanation of how to use the star maps including how to orient the pages for viewing different directions (east, south, west) and a nice table of which map should be used at what time of night for two dates in each month. This will allow those new to astronomy to quickly learn how to use the star atlas. There is a table of bright stars (brighter than Magnitude 2.5), which could assist beginning amateur astronomers with Autostar star aligning. There are also tables of brighter multiple stars and nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters. There is a table listing constellations and which map they appear on, again a useful item for beginners. The star maps do not have the constellations marked with lines connecting the stars, however there is a table listing the stars that make up the "connect-the-dots" for several of the more popular constellations so that you can draw in these lines should you want them. Then there are the 8 star maps, spanning two facing pages, and covering the entire sky, both northern and southern hemispheres. There are two circular maps showing each polar region from 50 to 90 degrees Declination and six maps showing equal (but slightly overlapping) slices of the sky from 60 degrees North Declination to 60 degrees South Declination. The maps have easily read magnitude symbols for stars down to Magnitude 6 and individual symbols for open clusters, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, diffuse nebulae, and galaxies.
A portion of Map 7 is shown here. You can see the symbols at the upper left and the constellation of Lyra near the center of the image (the actual maps are much clearer than this JPEG image). At the price that Rigel Systems is selling this star atlas, it would be a welcome addition to any new or experienced ETX user's collection of observing tools.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Straight)
The Solar Astronomy Handbook, Rainer Beck (Editor). Willmann-Bell, Inc. 516pp. $24.95
The ETX is a wonderful solar scope, and this book can help you get much more from your solar observing. There are chapters on a variety of topics, from choosing a telescope to observing the sun in hydrogen alpha light. Solar structures are treated in great detail, with whole chapters devoted to sunspots, faculae, light bridges, granulation, etc. The text is lucid and well-written; acessible for the beginner, yet challenging enough for even an advanced student of the sun. The book goes into great detail describing different amateur observation possibilities--the amateur can still make a great scientific contribution in solar work. One section of the book is dedicated to planning and carrying out expeditions to observe solar eclipses--a must -read section if you intend to make any eclipse observations.
All-in-all, this is a superb work, well worth the investment.
From: email@example.com (Ken Winograd)
I finally did get the book Astronomer's Computer Companion. It's not bad. It's on the expensive side ($39.95 list)....if interested, textbooks.com happens to have the best price ($23). It's not a bad book, but comes with a SUPERB CDROM. The book itself has a chapter about most kind of astronomical interests (earth, moon, planets, sun, nebulas, galaxies, etc), and then each chapter talks about some of the best places online to learn about each topic. But, the CDROM is really cool. It has folders of pictures, animations, the book itself (with clickable-links in PDF form), and software. The pictures and animations are SUPERB. There's nothing on it you can't find elsewhere, but some of the animations are so big, I probably would't waste time downloading 'em....but on the CD, they're easy to view. And, there's hundreds of Mac and PC astronomy programs to play with (which I haven't yet.) Again, nothing you couldn't get online, but it sure is a timesaver to have all of them on a CD.
Mike here: I also recently purchased the "Astronomer's Computer Companion". The first half of this, at times overwhelming book, is essentially an introductory class on astronomy and cosmology. It covers the Solar System, Stars, Nebulae, and Galaxies. Most pages have at least one URL and sometimes several URLs. The sites referenced are government run scientific sources, universities, individuals, and various other useful sources. The sites provide you with additional information and images of the topic being discussed in the book. You could probably spend years just browsing all the sites mentioned in the book.
Next comes a discussion of using your computer in astronomy. Software for Macintosh and Windows, some web sites, mailing lists, newsgroups, and chat rooms are covered. Remote control of telescopes via the Internet are covered. Finally there are extensive appendices on the contents of the CD-ROM. The software provided is divided into PC and Mac. There are many fine images and movie clips as well as freeware, shareware, and demo versions of commercial software on the CD-ROM. You could probably spend weeks looking at the images and playing with all the software.
One thing I would like to have seen on the CD-ROM would be an HTML page with all the URLs in the book, categorized by topic (or chapters in the book). This would be a handy resource, saving the reader much time in looking up the topics in the book and then typing in URLs. However, the entire book (!) is on the CD-ROM in PDF format, with clickable links so you don't have to type URLs if you don't want to. You can even view the images and movie clips from the PDF file.
Overall I found this book an excellent introduction (for those needing that) into Astronomy and the addition of all the web site references and CD-ROM really added to its value.
A received a book for Christmas, I finally found the time to finish reading it. "Advanced Skywatching: The Backyard Astronomer's Guide to Starhopping and Exploring the Universe" It is one of the Nature Company's Guides and written by Robert Burnham, Martin George, Alan Dyer, Robert Garfinkle, Jeff Kanipe, and David Levy. It is a great book, very knowledgeable and up to date. A fairly inexpensive book, it is full of photos, drawings, and other visual aids. In all honesty, it greatly increased my knowledgeable of astronomy. I'm glad I own it, however it could be read in a fairly short period of time, perhaps taken out of the library. It close to 300 pages, about 288, including Appendixes, glossary, and index. All around great book. Good for the beginning astronomer, as well as someone looking to make their first serious scope purchase. Thanks Mike.
Joe Rodricks, 15
I thought anyone interested in an excellent guide book would have to look no further than "Night Sky". Text by Ian Ridpath and sky charts by Wil Tirion. Published by Harper Collins and it costs only $8.00. It covers all 88 constellations and does not confuse the eye with loads of details. The text lists the important doubles, Messier's and NGCs. Drawings are the best and cover all that is in the text and then some. Extremely well bound, I take it with me wherever I go and not a page has fallen out.
I bought mine from amazon.com using the isbn number: 0004588177 It was out of print for a while but thank goodness it is now available. I just bought 2 more as gifts for astronomy minded friends.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ron McCafferty)
Turn Left at Orion: A hundred night sky objects to see in a small telescope and how to find them, Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis, Cambridge University Press, 17.50, observing guide.
If I'd bought this book first I would've bought less books. The authors' goal was to provide a book that could be just like a knowledgeable friend sitting next to you. I think they accomplished their goal as well as a book can. The book is organized by section with a moon section, with maps of the moon at various stages, planets section, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn seasonal sections, how to run a telescope section, where to go from here section, and a table of objects.
The seasonal sections, which are the majority of the book, start with an overview of guide stars that are easy to find and used to find the rest of the objects for that season. Each object has a rating, required sky condition, magnification recommendation, overview drawing, finderscope drawing, and what you'll see drawing. The finderscope view can be deceiving since they show an upside-down and mirrored image that ETX users don't have with the default finderscope. The accompanying text includes where to look, in the finderscope, in the telescope, comments, and what you're looking at. I find the author's method easy to use and understandable. All the drawings are in black and white and are indispensable. They let you know if you're looking in the right place. Under dark skies I was able to find M4 and know that is was M4.
I do most of my viewing from my light polluted front sidewalk. I've discovered that I need to find a darker site. Now that I know where M4 is I know it isn't visible from my sidewalk. So the book eased my mind about not being able to find objects. I'm looking forward to getting out again under dark skies and finding other objects. There are enough double stars and other objects to make the book worth while from my front sidewalk.
The book doesn't include star maps, which I think could be helpful. However I have other star map books along with subscriptions to Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines.
I think with a planisphere (sp?), a star atlas such as Norton's or the Cambridge Star Atlas, and Turn Left At Orion, a beginning ETX stargazer would be well equipped. I highly recommend this book.
Splendors of the Universe A Practical Guide to Photographing the Night Sky, Terence Dickinson and Jack Newton, Firefly Books, $40.00, photography guide.
One of the reasons I bought the ETX was to take pictures but I didnt really know where to get started. This book provides excellent advice. The book has 4 parts: Getting started: Camera and Tripod, Tracking the Target: Milky Way Odyssey, Probing Deeper: Through the Telescope, CCD Imaging: More Power to You.
Part one recommends starting with Camera and tripod pictures to get a feel for taking nighttime pictures. It leads you through taking pictures of the various nighttime objects with assistance on camera settings. Part two talks about taking pictures using your telescope as a piggyback mount and building a barn door mount. Looks like JMI will be getting an order from me soon. Part three discusses taking pictures through the telescope. Part four is an excellent discussion on CCD cameras.
A must is a camera that allows you to take time exposures of 30 seconds or longer. An easy way to tell is if your camera has a B setting on the shutter speed dial. If your camera is battery powered however the batteries may die before youve taken to many pictures so an older manual model is desirable. Im using a Pentax K1000 my father in law bought my wife before we got married.
This book is an excellent starting point for someone who wants to take nighttime pictures. It would take a lot of time and money to learn this on your own through trial and error.
Practical Astronomy A User Friendly Handbook for Sky Watchers, H. Robert Mills, Albion Publishing, Observing Guide
This book is for a person with an advanced interest in the science of Astronomy with a knack for woodworking. The book basically builds scientific tools with the idea of learning and teaching about the science of Astronomy.
When I got my ETX in 1997 (too late for Hale-Bopp!), I was very unfamiliar with the sky, knowing only a few of the standard constellations (Orion and his big dog, the Dippers, and Cassiopeia). I was also troubled by an inability to imagine the plane of the ecliptic or just how the earth's revolution and rotation could be understood from seeing how the sky moved. When I looked at standard star maps (as in Sky and Telescope) almost everything appeared unfamiliar and confusing. Two books, in particular, have helped me see more of the big moving picture and more of what's up in the sky.
The Ever Changing Sky: A Guide to the Celestial Sphere by James B. Kaler, Cambridge University Press, 1996 (ISBN 0 521 38053 7) (500 pages hardcover).
This book helped enormously with the big picture. The first three chapters provide numerous diagrams and very lucid commentary to help solve the twin problems of location and movement: "The Earth and the celestial sphere"; "The moving Earth and the traveling observer"; and "The orbital motion of the Earth". These chapters cover various coordinate systems, seasonal variation, and measures of time among other necessary topics. Other chapters cover additional important topics at what I found to be just the right level of detail: precession, time, sunrise and sunset, tides, calendars, light and the atmosphere, the planets, and the moon just to name a few. The book was not a quick read for me. I would not by any stretch call it "easy." The diagrams were much more informative than many I've seen in introductory astronomy text books. I found myself returning to the book again and again (I needed to do so to get a full grasp of many topics) and I was richly rewarded each time. It still serves as a valuable reference book and refresher. I don't know if it is out in paperback. If it were, I'd buy another copy to keep one at home and the other at work.
The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide by Harvard C. Pennington,
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1997 (ISBN 0 943396 54 9) (206 pages hardcover,
You can read about this book on the Willmann-Bell page in each month's issue of Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazines. Given that the ETX is not the Messier aficionado's scope of choice, it just might be that we ETX owners would not give this book a second look because it appears to be too specialized. I have never regretted owning my copy. This book has served me well as I began to learn more about constellations and their seasonal movements. The author's use of "signpost constellations" - these are the constellations we all discover we really do need to know for many reasons other than spotting M-objects - and the various "signpost maps" helped me learn the night sky at various seasons. There are also "signpost stars" which one ought to learn. I think this book did more than any other for helping the monthly sky charts in the magazines take on the reality they deserved. The "Finder Charts" provide very detailed "one-power" views of the heavens - assisting in the learning of the constellations as well as in the learning of the skill of "star hopping" (which I am still a novice at). These charts deal with particular constellations (presented in alphabetical order) in great detail, and include 8X50 finder views (both right angle and straight through) for locating M-objects. The descriptions and eyepiece drawings are excellent. Oh yes, you can see many of these Messier objects with your ETX (some with the naked eye at dark sites) as many observers have noted in the user feedback section of this site. But I'm recommending it for the detailed charts of the constellations. In addition there are very helpful sections on calibrating a finder scope, calibrating an eyepiece, and determining "which way is 'up'." I find myself returning to this book again and again as the seasons change. And, I am also finding that I really do enjoy finding Messier objects. Even if you never want to find a single Messier object, this book would still be worth buying to learn details of the constellations and their seasonal movements.
I enjoyed reading Ron MCafferty's reviews of 16 Feb. I, too, have a copy of Garfinkle's Star Hopping and also found it "over my head." After spending time with The Year-Round Guide I find I'm enjoying Garfinkle much more. It's incredibly detailed and so seems difficult, but necessary, to imagine bringing it to the scope. I'm glad I own the book, but I find myself using Pennington on a more regular basis. Maybe some day I'll "graduate" to Garfinkle and feel comfortable with it.
Good seeing to all
I bought an ETX in July of 1998 knowing almost nothing of the night sky except where to find the Big Dipper. I quickly figured out I needed help learning the sky and turned to an older hobby, book collecting and reading.
The reviews are my opinion based on my limited experience with Astronomy. My primary purpose was to learn the night sky and grasp some fundamental Astronomy science. Comments or suggestions are invited and welcomed.
Generally a book is either about the science of Astronomy or it is an observing guide although they each will cover the other topic. Ive included the author, publisher, price and the type. The reviews are brief in nature.
40 Nights to Knowing the Sky, A Night by Night Skywatching Primer Fred Schaaf, Henry Holt and Company Inc, $17.95, observing guide.
Fred Scaaf currently does the Sun, Moon, and Planets section in Sky & Telescope magazine.
This is a good entry-level introduction to whats in the sky and why it moves around. The book assumes you know nothing. Each night is a learning experience where the reader is instructed on how to observe the nights topic. Included in the appendices are some basic data charts and a section on telescopes and binoculars.
Since I had already some other observing guides I found this an easy read without much new information until I got to night 26, Conjunctions and Occultations. This is also where the telescope portion of the book begins. I though the book covered some of these topics better than I had already read. I particularly liked the moon and comets section.
Astronomy A Self-Teaching Guide Forth Edition Dinah L. Moche, John Wiley & Sons Inc., $17.95, science guide.
The book is written in textbook style with self-quizzes along the way. It covers what youd expect in an Astronomy college course, which is to say a lot. Everything from "whats a star made" of to "Is there life on other worlds".
This book is for someone who wants to know more about the science of Astronomy.
The Cambridge Star Atlas Second Edition Wil Tirion, Cambridge University Press, $15.95, observing guide
Just maps, Moon map, monthly maps, star charts, and all sky maps. I like this book a lot and it is my first tool for finding objects. The monthly sky maps show the constellations viewable during that month. The star charts break the sky into 20 segments. Each map is on its own page. The opposite page provides a list of whats on the map. The all sky maps list the distribution of the constellations, open clusters, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, diffuse nebulae, and galaxies. The maps are easy to read.
I find owning an atlas invaluable. Other ETX owners of this atlas have reported all the stars on the maps are viewable with the ETX.
The Observer's Handbook 1999, published yearly, Various, University of Toronto Press Inc., $20.95, observing guide.
One of my favorite Christmas gifts as a kid was the World Almanac my Uncle gave me every year. This book reminds me of that almanac. It is jammed packed with information. There is something for everyone. Things like the rising and setting time of the sun and moon, eclipse maps, and sky maps. The authors encourage the reader to use the handbook as a teaching tool. I often use this book to answer questions Im asked about astronomy.
The information is presented concisely. Be warned theres no coddling the reader here. The book is an 8 _ x 5 _ x _ paperback. It is easy to carry and is quite handy to have around.
Star Hopping Robert Garfinkle, Cambridge University Press, $16.95, observing guide
The books goal is to teach you how to navigate the night sky by star hopping. Star hopping is the technique of starting with a known star and maneuvering to nearby objects. The techniques advantage is you dont need to use the coordinate system or polar alignment. The book starts with a science discussion of whats in the sky and information on telescopes and binoculars. After the introduction each chapter is a monthly star hop which includes a mini-map.
Mixed in the actual hop is related information about the objects in the hop such as stories about characters of the constellation. I thought the hopping would be easier if it was presented in 1, 2, 3 steps instead of paragraph form mixed in with "flavor text".
I think this was the second book I bought. It was over my head. Much of the initial information I got was from this book but I couldnt figure out how to make star hopping work. I recently re-visited this book and I understand more of the terms and important concepts. Im going to give it another try.
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