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Review Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Dec 30, 2007.

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  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    This isn't my usual book review, but when the publisher suggested it, the kid in me took over. After you read the review, that kid may take you over as well. -Trip

    Authors: Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson
    Format: Paperback, 519 pages
    Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc.; 1st Illustrated edition (October 31, 2007)
    ISBN-10: 0596526857
    ISBN-13: 978-0596526856

    Review by James Pyles
    December 30, 2007

    Do you have $250 plus the cost of this book burning a hole in your pocket? Ever wanted to study the stars and constellations by yourself when and where you wanted to? Are you an amateur astronomer or amateur astronomer wannabee struggling with what celestial objects to study and where to find them? Say no more. Thompson and Thompson have come to your rescue by writing "Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders".

    The $250 (give or take) will get you a relatively high quality telescope, fully capable of helping you discover the mysteries of the universe right from your own backyard (conditions being appropriate, of course). That, and a strong interest in observing the heavens is all you really need to become the latest amateur astronomer on your block. The Thompson and Thompson book makes it easy by listing all the common objects of interest in alphabetical order. While there are a number of online resources for the newbie astronomer, this book makes it even easier to get a handle on what you need to get started.

    Officially, the book gets you going in the endeavor of DSO or Deep-Space Objects (or Deep-Sky Objects) observing. Sounds pretty cool but the "cool factor" goes way beyond the title. What's really cool about the book is it takes the universe and puts it at the fingertips of the ordinary person. I probably would have chosen something related to astronomy as a career if not for the math-phobia I experienced in my younger years. That, and the jargon attached to astronomy can be pretty intimidating. Reading this book makes it all seem very attainable.

    Not only is all the necessary information available between the covers, but the book is written in straightforward language and a bit of humor. That said, you'll need to be willing to step up to the plate and actually learn some of the language of astronomy. Chances are if the book interests you at all, you already know that language, at least in part, or are more than willing to take it on.

    The book takes the raw materials such as you the observer, your equipment, and the night sky, and provides context and orientation to the individual elements, letting you organize your intentions into actions that have the desired results. After a brief introduction into DSO observation, Chapter 2 takes you into the world of "Observing Equipment". If you don't already have the equipment you need or you don't even know where to get started, this chapter acts something like a buyer's guide, helping you select the system right for your needs. There's even a handy list of where (and where not) to buy your "stuff".

    Once you are equipped for the journey, it's time to get on the road. The "road" in your case, happens to be the "Milky Way" and all that it contains. Well, that said, the first stop after your shopping spree, at least as far as the organization of the book is concerned, is "Andromeda, The Princess", which is quite a bit outside our own galaxy. The rest of the book continues to list each object and it's particulars, including how to find it, going from A to B, and onward through the rest of the alphabet.

    This is the sort of book I wish I had years ago, when I had the passion and the disposable income to be able to pursue DSO observation. If you have that passion, don't wait. You may want to use this book to get started on an individual hobby, or nurture a family activity, or perhaps even teach a small class. Whatever your motivations, "Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders" is more than enough as a resource to launch you in the direction you want to go...skyward.
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