Four hundred year ago, during the winter of 1609, a relatively unknown Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei designed a spyglass with two crude lenses and turned it skyward. Since then, refractors have retained their dominance over all types of reflector in studies of the Moon, planets and double stars because of the precision of their optics and lack of a central obstruction in the optical path, which causes diffraction effects in all commercially-made reflectors.
Most mature amateur astronomers got started with a 60mm refractor, or something similar. Thirty years ago there was little choice available to the hobbyist, but in the last decade long focus crown-flint achromats have moved aside for some exquisitely crafted apochromatic designs offered by leading commercial manufacturers. There has been a huge increase in the popularity of these telescopes in the last few years, led by a significant increase in the number of companies (particularly, William Optics, Orion USA, Stellarview, Skywatcher and AstroTech) who are now heavily marketing refractors in the amateur astronomical magazines.
In Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope, well-known observer and astronomy writer Neil English celebrates the remarkable history and evolution of the refracting telescope and looks in detail at the instruments, their evolution and their use.
A major feature of this book is the way it compares not only different classes of refractor, but also telescopes of each class that are sold by various commercial manufacturers. The author is perhaps uniquely placed to do this, having used and tested literally hundreds of different refracting telescopes over three decades.
Because it includes many diverse subjects such as imaging with consumer-level digital cameras, imaging with webcams, and imaging with astronomical CCD cameras – that are not covered together in equal depth in any other single volume – Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope could become the ‘refractor bible’ for amateur astronomers at all levels, especially those who are interested in imaging astronomical objects of every class.
The book is written for amateur astronomers interested in budget astrophotography – the deep sky, not just the Moon and planets – and for those who want to improve their imaging skills using DSLR and webcams. It is even possible to use existing (non-specialist astronomical) equipment for scientific applications such as high resolution planetary and lunar photography, astrometry, photometry, and spectroscopy.
The introduction of the CCD revolutionized astrophotography. The availability of this technology to the amateur astronomy community has allowed advanced science and imaging techniques to become available to almost anyone willing to take the time to learn a few, simple techniques. Specialized cooled-chip CCD imagers are capable of superb results in the right hands – but they are all very expensive. If budget is important, the reader is advised on using a standard camera instead.
Jensen provides techniques useful in acquiring beautiful high-quality images and high level scientific data in one accessible and easy-to-read book. It introduces techniques that will allow the reader to use more economical DSLR cameras – that are of course also used for day-to-day photography – to produce images and data of high quality, without a large cash investment.
Observing Skills: The Science and Art of using Astronomical Telescopes provides the required information. First, it explains how to get the best from entry-level equipment (that upgrade may not even be needed for a year or two!). Second, it explains how to select equipment that is at the ‘next level’, and describes how use more advanced telescopes and accessories.
The book is organized according to observational targets, and although it concentrates mainly on visual observing, it concludes with a section on imaging and the equipment currently available – from regular digital cameras, through webcams, to specialized chilled-chip CCD cameras.
Observing Skills: The Science and Art of using Astronomical Telescopes is the perfect follow-up to Moore and Watson: Astronomy with a Budget Telescope and Tonkin: AstroFAQs . It neatly fills the gap between these introductory books and the more advanced books in Springer’s Practical Astronomy list.
Currently available lightweight mounts and tripods are identified and examined from an economic versus capability perspective to help users determine what camera, telescope, and mount is the best fit for them. A similar analysis is presented for entry-level telescopes and mounts sold as bundled packages by the telescope manufacturers. This book lifts the veil of mystery from the creation of deep space photographs and makes astrophotography affordable and accessible to most amateur astronomers.
“Lessons from the Masters” includes a brilliant body of recognized leaders in astronomical imaging, assembled by Robert Gendler, who delivers the most current, sophisticated and useful information on digital enhancement techniques in astrophotography available today. Each chapter focuses on a particular technique, but the book as a whole covers all types of astronomical image processing, including processing of events such as eclipses, using DSLRs, and deep-sky, planetary, widefield, and high resolution astronomical image processing. Recognized contributors include deep-sky experts such as Jay GaBany, Tony Hallas, and Ken Crawford, high-resolution planetary expert Damian Peach, and the founder of TWAN (The World at Night) Babak A. Tafreshi.
A large number of illustrations (150, 75 in color) present the challenges and accomplishments involved in the processing of astronomical images by enthusiasts.
All it takes is some elbow grease, a creative and open mind and the help of Chung's hard-won knowledge on building and modifying telescopes and cameras. With this book, it is possible for readers to improve their craft, making their equipment more user friendly. The tools are at hand, and the advice on how to do it is here. Readers will discover a comprehensive presentation of astronomical projects that any amateur on any budget can replicate – projects that utilize leading edge technology and techniques sure to invigorate the experts and elevate the less experienced.
As the "maker" community continues to expand, it has wonderful things to offer amateur astronomers with a willingness to get their hands dirty. Tweaking observing and imaging equipment so that it serves a custom purpose can take your observing options to the next level, while being fun to boot.