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Book Reviews


Exploring the Solar System with Binoculars
Author: Stephen James O’Meara

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0-521-74128-6

Price: £15.65 (Pb), 156pp


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Those who have heard Steve O’Meara speak at AstroFest will know of his engaging personality and infectious enthusiasm for his subject, which is usually, as here, visual observing in the traditional manner. He often describes himself as “A 19th-century astronomer in the 21st-century” – not there is anything backward-looking in his approach.

This book is intended as a companion volume to the authors’ Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars. Whereas in that book the focus is on the stars, here it is on the nearer Universe. To a large extent this is a just a basic introductory text on Solar System astronomy, but the approach taken in organising the information is distinctive: assume minimal equipment – the naked eye or small, inexpensive binoculars, together with a few other simple accessories such as a tripod and projection card – and explain every detail that could possibly be teased out using these by an observer as skilled as the author himself.

The six chapters straightforwardly cover the Sun, Moon, Eclipses, planets, comets, and meteors. I was particularly impressed with the chapter on the Moon, which gives photographs at a scale really to look like the binocular Moon, at various stages of illumination, with a key to the formations. The author actually goes into a great deal of detail on his subjects, including both interesting historical sidelights and the very latest information (which is always assiduously attributed – a rarity in a book of this kind). I found very few errors indeed.

My only caveats are that some readers on this side of the Atlantic might find the style a little too gushing, and that the layout is curious in that the illustrations (all in monochrome) lack captions. They are explained in the text, which means you do have to read the text to find out what they mean. This approach risks confusion occasionally.

I would recommend this book to all beginning observers. Don’t consider the low page count: this is a large-format book that is excellent value.

David Arditti

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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