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Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series) [Paperback]

Neil English
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Sep 2010 1441964029 978-1441964021 2011

Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope has been written for the many amateur astronomers who already own, or are intending to purchase, a refracting telescope - perhaps to complement their existing arsenal of larger reflecting telescopes - or for the specialist who requires a particular refractor for serious astronomical applications or nature studies.

Four hundred year ago, during the winter of 1609, a relatively unknown Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei designed a spyglass with two crude lenses and turned it skyward. Since then, refractors have retained their dominance over all types of reflector in studies of the Moon, planets and double stars because of the precision of their optics and lack of a central obstruction in the optical path, which causes diffraction effects in all commercially-made reflectors.

Most mature amateur astronomers got started with a 60mm refractor, or something similar. Thirty years ago, there was little choice available to the hobbyist, but in the last decade long focus crown-flint achromats have moved aside for some exquisitely crafted apochromatic designs offered by leading commercial manufacturers. There has been a huge increase in the popularity of these telescopes in the last few years, led by a significant increase in the number of companies (particularly, William Optics, Orion USA, StellarVue, SkyWatcher and AstroTech) who are now heavily marketing refractors in the amateur astronomical magazines.

In Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope, well-known observer and astronomy writer Neil English celebrates the remarkable history and evolution of the refracting telescope and looks in detail at the instruments, their development and their use.

A major feature of this book is the way it compares not only different classes of refractor, but also telescopes of each class that are sold by various commercial manufacturers. The author is perhaps uniquely placed to do this, having used and tested literally hundreds of different refracting telescopes over three decades.

Because it includes many diverse subjects such as imaging with consumer-level digital cameras, imaging with webcams, and imaging with astronomical CCD cameras - that are not covered together in equal depth in any other single volume - Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope could become the 'refractor bible' for amateur astronomers at all levels, especially those who are interested in imaging astronomical objects of every class.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2011 edition (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441964029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441964021
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 721,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


From the reviews:

“Dr. Neil English is no stranger to the astronomical community … . His knowledge of telescope optics is highly respected, and here he endeavours to lay down all his knowledge in a concise and thorough manner. He opens the book with a wonderful overview of the history of the telescope … . this book something you really want to own, as it’s a guide not only to what is achievable by anyone with modest equipment, but also what to aspire to. Thoroughly recommended.” (Nick Howes, Astronomy Now Online, May, 2011)

“Neil English opens with a brief history of refractor design, including the contributions of Lippershey, Galileo and Huygens, amongst others. … the text is clearly written and there’s plenty of useful data in the appendix. … it’s a valuable resource for anyone thinking about buying a refractor or who wants to learn more about the history and development of this iconic scientific instrument.” (Mark Parrish, BBC Sky at Night Magazine, June, 2011)

“Having owned around a dozen refractors over the years–ranging from a ‘lowly’ 40mm refractor, through several antique examples to a go-to refractor–I was keen to read a book that promised to reinforce my love for ‘the prince of telescopes’. … An excellent, up-to-date book containing much more than I have outlined in this review. English communicates his passion for refractors, and the book comes to life with user accounts of refractors old and new.” (Peter Grego, Popular Astronomy, July-August, 2011)

“Value to have accessible a comprehensive guide to the availability and use of refractors, which have a special attraction and romance –– especially for those who have used and appreciated the best of them. … The short but useful appendices include glossaries of terms and formulae, and data on a selection of double stars which can be used for testing refractors of various apertures. … Even for those with only the slightest interest, it would certainly inspire them.” (R. A. Marriott, The Observatory, Vol. 131 (1224), October, 2011)

From the Back Cover

The refracting telescope has a long and illustrious past. Here’s what the author says about early telescopes and today’s refractors: “Four centuries ago, a hitherto obscure Italian scientist turned a home-made spyglass towards the heavens. The lenses he used were awful by modern standards, inaccurately figured and filled with the scars of their perilous journey from the furnace to the finishing workshop. Yet, despite these imperfections, they allowed him to see what no one had ever seen before – a universe far more complex and dynamic than anyone had dared imagine. But they also proved endlessly useful in the humdrum of human affairs. For the first time ever, you could spy on your neighbor from a distance, or monitor the approach of a war-mongering army, thus deciding the fate of nations. “The refractor is without doubt the prince of telescopes. Compared with all other telescopic designs, the unobstructed view of the refractor enables it to capture the sharpest, highest contrast images and the widest usable field. No other telescope design can beat it on equal terms. From a practical point of view, refractors are the most comfortable and least troublesome telescope to observe with. They require little maintenance and cool down rapidly to allow you to observe in minutes rather than hours. Because a refractor has more back focus than almost any other form of telescope, it can accept the widest range of accessories, including filters, cameras, and binoviewers.” Explore in this book what makes refractors such a good choice for amateur astronomers and how to choose the right one for you. Also get some great tips on how to use your new refractor. Get started now, seeing for yourself the dazzling and complex universe first opened to human sight more just 400 years ago.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aspiring astronomers please note 29 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've just finished reading this wonderful, comprehensive review of the world of refracting telescopes at the present time. As a telescope owner it has given me ideas on how to upgrade my existing instrument to get much more out of it. It's a pity that a paperback book like this is so expensive, but I don't suppose there are economies of scale to be made.

Bill Samson
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 19 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great information with practical examples. The Author had big experience with a lot of refractors and wrote lots of reviews.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Information 15 Jun 2011
By pjajmk
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Neil English has produced an informative and very useful guide to the way that refractors are designed, and how best to make use of the different types. His descriptions are sufficiently technical to facilitate understanding, but not so technical as to overwhelm the lay reader. An excellent read!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I need to grow into it. 6 July 2011
By zooma
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book.

I bought it to help me make my first choice of a refractor telescope, and as a complete novice I found it good but a litle overwhelming - I never realised it was such a complex subject!

If you already have some knowledge of refractor telescopes and understand all of the technical terminology then I am sure this book will be a "breeze" for you to read and enjoy.

For me as an absolute beginner to astronomy and telescopes it is a very helpful reference that I will keep on my shelf and refer to it for many years to come, and as I "grow into it" and understand more it will become an ever more usefull point of reference.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written, informative book. Covers the topic thouroughly 22 Jan 2011
By Richard L. Sullivan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been a very interested in cosmology and astronomy most of my life, but just this year got seriously interested in actually telescopes and astro-photography. I own a Newtonian, a Catadioptic, and a small Refractor. I have noticed that most of the best astrophotographs are take with refractors, so I thought I'd seriously look into getting a decent one for imaging so I bought Mr. English's book. I have to say that of all the literature I have collected on telescopes and astronomy, (I seem to have bought them all) this is, by far, the most informative, up to date, and enjoyable of them all. I have read and re-read this book and always learns something new. The author thoroughly covers the subject matter with succinct explanations of the various types of refractor design and what to expect as far as performance. If you are thinking of buying a refractor, this book is well worth reading. You can tell that the author enjoys refractors. This book is one I will keep!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book! 14 Mar 2012
By Michael R. Nofi - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a refractor affectionado you will love this book. I have used telescopes for over 45 years and I thought I knew everything about refractors and I was wrong (e.g. defocus tolerance and the affects on seeing). The book has a breezy writing style that is upbeat and fun to read. Mr. Neil English is passionate about refractors and it is infectious! My only complaint is that the book places too much emphasis on reviewing telescopes (which will become outdate over time) and I would like to seen more emphasis on testing and optical performance theory. To the author's credit he did an excellent job explaining complex optical theory in a very digestable manner. A few typos were noted and some of the graphs were hard to decipher (due to lack of a color legend). Most of the books emphasis is on visual observing and not digital imaging. Some readeres may not agree with the author that the old telescopes were in many cases better than the new genera of APOs. I do agree with the author's statement that a properly made achromat with a slow f/ratio is really hard to beat for depth of focus, sharpness and contrast. I have seen it with my own eyes! When the book came to an end I found myself wanting more.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Illustrated Reference Book About Refractors 25 Feb 2013
By Mark Mathosian - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are thinking about buying a refractor telescope, read this book first. By the time you are done, you will understand the differences and similarities between Achromatic and Apochromatic refractors and which type is best for you. You will learn about the types of "glass" used in refractor lenses and why some kinds of glass are better than others. This is important because the type of glass used on the telescope has a direct bearing on its ability to snap to focus and diminish or eliminate false colors. The kinds of glass used also has a direct impact on your checkbook. Generally speaking, the better the glass, the more costly the scope.

Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope was published in 2011 and is pretty much up-to-date in its product information, particularly in regard to which telescope manufacturers are leaders in their field. The book covers telescopes of all sizes and prices and makes comparison shopping much easier. I particularly like the fact the Mr. English speaks his mind about why one scope may be better than another and he is not hesitant to make recommendations. Neil English is also an excellent writer so reading the book is a pleasant experience. He takes difficult subjects and presents them in such a way that even amateur astronomers can understand them. I rate this one 5 stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars another winner! 30 Nov 2013
By Ronald Zincone Photography - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another great book in the Sir Patrict Moore series. Well written with
wonderful images and lots of great information on refractors.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent buyer's guide 8 Dec 2011
By Dirt_worshiper - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an intermediate, amatuer astronomer looking for my first refractor (currently using SCT). This book is written well enough, but it does read like a collection of different astro web product reviews (many are second hand accounts). I liked that it was not overly technical, but gave me a starting point on understanding the tech specs on different glass, lenses, focal ratios, etc. Also, discusses the different aberrations well, but could use more pictures showing how these aberrations would look through a scope.

Despite my criticisms, I am sure I will continue to reference it along with other astro books and online astro forums. The author is clearly passionate about refractors, and I am sure he will improve this books's shortcomings on future editions.
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