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Book Reviews


The Complete Guide to the Herschel Objects
Author: Mark Bratton

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

ISBN: 978-0-5217-6892-4

Price: £45 (Hb), 584pp


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It’s time to dust off your telescopes and binoculars, leave your laptops behind and go outside under the stars, for Mark Bratton has set a fantastic challenge – to find over 2,400 objects from the Herschel catalogue. It’s a challenge that will appeal to beginners and experts alike.

Why? For beginners, it will help identify classic rich fields of view and thus will increase the interest at a critical learning time. For experts, it will sharpen observation techniques at the telescope and draw together experience in tracking down objects for an often renewed look after many years.

As a Herschelian historian, I was particularly interested in Bratton’s stance on chronicling the original observations and identifying the correct ‘survey’ and equipment used. I am pleased to say, Bratton is spot-on with every reference. The Herschel story of a musician turned astronomer has been written up many times, however, Bratton has taken the practical route: context of observing sites, telescope maker and observer. This is unique and gets straight down to business. Caroline Herschel also receives good billing and all the crucial milestones are contained in the narrative. Illustrations are well researched and superbly distributed within the text.

So what of the catalogue? Constellations are alphabetically listed, NGC numbered, Herschel numbered and classed according to size and depth of object with each entry carefully described, giving the astronomer every chance of planning a great evening’s observing. I have recently returned to observe NGC 6826, the ‘Blinking Planetary Nebula’ in Cygnus for the first time in nearly 20 years – Herschel’s observation was in September 1793. My observation is reasonably good. Bratton’s observation is assured. I am impressed with the line drawings sketched at the eyepiece of a 15-inch Newtonian reflector. Even for those with lower apertures, there is much to glean from this book. It is meticulously researched and there is an outstanding attention to detail throughout.

Ian Welland

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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