June 21, 2005

"Astronomy Hacks": Identify Celestial Objects and Chart the Skies

Sebastopol, CA--From prehistoric times to the present day, the stars and constellations have presented a mystery that has inspired astronomy--the study of celestial bodies and the universe as a whole. There are various constellations and stars visible to the naked eye, but there are many more galactic wonders that can only be viewed with the right techniques and equipment.

Astronomy Hacks: Tips and Tools for Observing the Night Sky (Thompson and Thompson, O'Reilly, US $24.95) is for anyone interested in exploring the evening skies. The authors offer time-honored tips and tricks on how to use computers, hand-held devices, binoculars, and telescopes--including the use of basic equipment to photograph celestial objects.

"There is something special about being out under the night sky," states co-author Robert Bruce Thompson. "The stars provide a link across the generations. We look at the Great Orion Nebula, for example, and realize that the light we see tonight began its journey about 1,550 years ago, when the Roman Empire was in its final days."

This book shows amateurs and experienced hobbyists alike, how to get up to speed quickly, spend money wisely, and avoid common mistakes. It can be read from cover to cover, or each hack can stand on its own. The authors also encourage the reader to browse and jump to the hacks they find most interesting.

Astronomy Hacks is organized into four chapters that cover everything from essentials and etiquette at observation sites, to tweaking and building accessories:

  • Getting Started--Choosing the right equipment, safety tips and good etiquette at observing sites, and preparing for urban observing
  • Observing Hacks--Locating astronomical objects, learning about dark adaptation and preserving night vision, describing the brightness of an object, identifying stars and constellations, printing custom charts, seeing deep sky objects, and photographing the stars
  • Scope Hacks--Tweaks and upgrades for scopes including tips for maintaining your equipment, eliminating astigmatism, building a film can collimating tool, tuning a Newtonian reflector, star collimating a scope, using counterweights on a Dobsonian scope, and much more
  • Accessory Hacks--How to choose, build and maintain essential and not so essential accessories, including using a Barlow lens, optimizing an eye piece collection, building an occulting eye piece, choosing planetarium software, building an equatorial platform, and using PDAs
  • Graphical icons are placed alongside each hack to guide the reader, like the thermometer icon indicating the relative complexity of the hack. There is also an icon for supplementary information and one that conveys a note of caution.

    Astronomy Hacks is an essential companion for anyone interested in making the most out of celestial observations.

    Additional Resources:

    Astronomy Hacks
    Robert Bruce Thompson and Barbara Fritchman Thompson
    ISBN: 0-596-10060-4, 416 pages, $24.95 US, $34.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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