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Book Reviews


Astronomers Anonymous
Author: Steve Ringwood

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-1-4419-5816-7

Price: £26.99 (Pb), 222pp


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A few years ago Springer asked me for ideas about future book projects. I suggested something humorous; after all, there are very few amusing astronomy books and those that are hilarious, such as Patrick Moore’s Can you speak Venusian?, have become collectors’ items. “Sorry”, they told me, “We’re not allowed to make them humorous”. Plus, they added that I was about as funny as a coffin lid and that only Jeremy Clarkson could write humorous stuff that sold well! Nevertheless, publishers are very fickle people, so I was not at all surprised to see a highly entertaining astronomy book by Steve Ringwood being published by Springer in 2010. Astronomers Anonymous is well worth buying, especially if you are going to be stuck on a transatlantic flight for eight hours.

Steve is no stranger to Astronomy Now readers. He has been writing entertaining stuff for decades and my first conscious recollection of a highly memorable Ringwood piece was his write up, in the BAA Journal, of a provincial meeting at Loughton during Patrick Moore’s presidency in August 1983.

In Astronomers Anonymous Steve presents an exaggerated parody of queries from stargazers to himself, in the style of letters to an agony aunt. Anyone who has received requests for help from beginners in this hobby will know the amazing range of bizarre messages that can arrive. Well, by removing the names of the original authors (where they existed) and adding humour, Steve’s treatment of these queries works very well. The 200 pages of real (-ish) or imaginary letters, along with Steve’s replies, are divided up into eight chapters covering subjects such as Instrumental Hiccups, Medical Maladies, Guiding the Naïve and Observational Tips. Of course, humour is a very personal thing, so individual readers may scream hysterically at every other page and others might just raise the odd titter in each chapter. For me, it was hard to put the book down, and even the most stone-faced reader should find something to amuse them.

Martin Mobberley

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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