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Book Reviews


Building a Roll-Off Roof Observatory
Author: John Hicks

Publisher: Springer

ISBN: 978-0-387-76603-4

Price: £24.50 (Pb), 160pp


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The full title of this book, Building a Roll-Off Roof Observatory – A Complete Guide for Design and Construction, pretty much sums it up. As they say in wood preservative adverts ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’. Therefore, it is not so much an entertaining astronomy read, but a useful construction manual, written by a Canadian amateur astronomer and architect. Nevertheless, John Hicks’ book is not all about sawing up wood, digging holes, laying concrete and getting wheels to run smoothly on rails. Chapter 1, covering ‘Observatory design considerations’, and the colour plates of various observatories relevant to that chapter, will probably engross most casual readers far more than the rest of the book, because a picture speaks a thousand words.

At 140 pages long, this book is certainly not the beefiest offering in Springer’s large Practical Astronomy series and many potential buyers may be torn between acquiring this construction guide and David Arditti’s 220-page book that, bizarrely, is actually a competitor in the same Springer series! Arditti’s Setting up a Small Observatory is not only larger, but far more wide-ranging, and a lot more relevant to a UK resident who may be up against our planning permission regulations. On the other hand, if you are hell-bent on building a roll-off roof observatory and have little interest in the other options then Hicks’ book will be extremely useful.

Building a Roll-Off Roof Observatory comes with a CD inserted into a pouch in the rear cover. It contains 63 monochrome bitmap construction diagrams that, while useful, could conceivably have been included as figures. Adding a CD increases production costs significantly, meaning this slim-line book is typically £6.00 more than much larger books in the series. If the CD contained software, fine, but for 63 monochrome diagrams it makes no economic sense to me. One final niggle is that the index will not lead you to the topic in question, as the topics listed are roughly four pages in error. Obviously someone edited the book after the index was finalised…

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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