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Book Reviews


Asteroids and Dwarf Planets and How to Observe Them

Author: Roger Dymock

Publisher: Springer

ISBN:978-1-4419-6438-0

Price: £35.99 (Pb), 248pp


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For those amateur astronomers who wish to carry out real science from their back gardens the learning curve can be very daunting. The perfect solution would be to have a mentor who could guide them, step-by-step, through each stage of the process. As an experienced asteroid observer, and a former director of the BAA’s Asteroids and Remote Planets section, Roger Dymock has all the knowledge necessary to instruct a newcomer in the art of asteroid observing. Fortunately, he has had the patience to assemble this excellent observing manual for any potential student of minor planets and the more distant dwarf planets too. Owning the book is like having Roger as your personal mentor.

At first glance it might seem that asteroids are rather dull objects. However, their sheer number and the tendency of pro’s to pump big money into cosmology means that amateurs have quite a few juicy asteroidal niche areas to work in. For example, photometry can be used to determine an asteroid’s rotation rate, because as they tumble around, their peanut shapes cause them to brighten and fade. In addition, using astrometry, experienced amateurs can help refine the orbits of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) that pose a threat to the Earth. Also, asteroids can cast stellar ‘shadow tracks’ on the Earth’s surface, under which an observer might see a background star wink out for a few seconds. With enough observers the asteroid’s profile can be determined simply by timing the star disappearing. Mastering all these skills can, with dedication, be achieved using the 170 pages in the second half of this book. The first 70 pages comprehensively describe the families, origins and evolutions of the minor planets and dwarf planets in our solar system. In summary Roger’s book ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ and will be invaluable to all asteroid observers, even those with some mileage on the clock.

Martin Mobberley

 

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