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Book Reviews


Practical Astronomy with your Calculator or Spreadsheet
Authors: Peter Duffet–Smith and Jonathan Zwart

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0-5211-4654-8

Price: £24.99 (ring bound pb) 216pp


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It's not often I do longhand astronomical maths these days. With capable computers now slotted into our shirt pockets, running astro-software is a lot more attractive than clunking away manually at often complex computations. But, what if you are an aspiring astro software programmer? You'll need a reliable compendium of formulae to create your own code for, say, planetary orbits. Or maybe you are an amateur astronomer who wants to build a small application to convert UT to sidereal time, or work out a sunspot's position in heliographic coordinates.

This beautifully produced, ring-bound book, now in its fourth edition, is a real reference gem for any astronomer or student. It contains just about all the maths you'd ever need for astronomical applications, presented in an exquisitely clear manner. This is no dry book of formulae; it's all firmly aimed at hands-on, 'recipe-book' demonstration of the method of any given calculation and getting you to think about every step.

The real strength of the book is in its use of 'screen-shot' spreadsheet graphics. Used for almost every one of the calculations, large, clear images show the reader how to use a spreadsheet program to make the calculations simpler and, for those programming, automated. As is increasingly common, the book is supported by a dedicated website where all the ready-prepared spreadsheets can be downloaded for free.

The authors have very sensibly pitched their book at a general audience who could be using any of the common 'office'-type programs such as Microsoft Office or the 'Open Office' freeware, so you won't be scratching your head, trying to convert from one program's way of doing things to another!

A comprehensive glossary of astronomical terms and symbols nicely adds to the overall usefulness of this excellent book.

John Rowlands

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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