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Cosmic Challenge: The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs Hardcover – 21 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (21 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521899362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521899369
  • Product Dimensions: 18.9 x 2.8 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 660,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Phil Harrington is one of the rare individuals who knows the sky and can write about it in an engaging manner. Cosmic Challenge features nearly 200 celestial hunts that will challenge you no matter how many days or years you've logged looking through a telescope. In writing this book, Harrington has produced a work of enduring value, one that should be on every observer's shelf.' Michael E. Bakich, Senior Editor, Astronomy magazine

'From noted astronomy writer Phil Harrington comes this welcome one-of-a-kind guidebook. Harrington provides page after page of observing challenges that encourage the reader to test his or her observing skills with naked eye, binocular, or telescope. With its blend of clear, descriptive narrative and detailed finder charts, this book is a pleasure to use. Cosmic Challenge belongs on the bookshelf of every serious amateur astronomer.' Glenn Chaple, contributing writer, Astronomy magazine

'Phil Harrington is a well-known astronomy writer and has published a lot of material about deep sky observing. Cosmic Challenge is his latest and probably best work to date … All-in-all this is an excellent observing guide, with something for everyone whether you observe with your unaided eyes or you have a 20 inch light bucket. It's both very readable and a proper observing guide suitable for use during an observing session. Highly recommended.'

'… an excellent addition to the collection of deep-sky books and should be on every amateur's bookshelf.' The Observatory

'overall, an interesting and attractive book that will keep most purchasers happy and which may, eventually, become very popular indeed.' Astronomy Now

Book Description

Listing over 500 sky targets, this guide will test novice astronomers and advanced veterans alike. Its unique mix of Solar System and deep-sky targets contains challenges suitable for the naked eye, binoculars, and backyard telescopes. Each target object has a difficulty rating, a realistic illustration, and a detailed finder chart.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for two reasons; to get ideas on what else to observe- giving more perspective to my many Star Atlases and second I enjoy Harrington's writing style and his approach to amateur astronomy.

In nutshell, the chapters collect a group of targets based on the telescope aperture size. If you have 12" + telescope, then you'll make the most of this book. For apertures less than 12" there are still plenty of gems to point your telescope at.

It's a beautiful and well presented book that can serve you well for years to come. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
if your into having fun with astronomy then this is the book to there is so much info at the begining. brill
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The ultimate observing guide! 6 July 2011
By William Davis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a veteran stargazer, I am always looking for something new to view through my telescopes. I thought I had seen it all. But then, along comes Cosmic Challenge by Philip S. Harrington. All of a sudden, it's a brand new universe again.

Cosmic Challenge is a unique blend of both the near and the far. What other single book describes how to see some of the Palomar globular clusters, Abell galaxy clusters, and lunar volcanic domes? None that I know of.

After detailing strategies for finding challenging objects in chapter 1, the author wisely divides the book into 6 chapters based on the size of telescopes. These range from naked eye (chapter 2) to "monster" telescopes 15" and larger (chapter 7). Each chapter is then further divided into the four seasons. Some solar system targets are also included in each chapter. A long appendix in the back of the book offers an additional 100 challenging binary stars.

Each challenge includes a detailed finder chart as well as a sketch made by the author. Unlike so many other observing guides that pepper their pages with photographs taken through telescopes, Harrington's sketches realistically portray what we can expect to actually see. That's what an observing guide should do -- other authors take note!

All in all, Cosmic Challenge is an outstanding book, and one that is singularly unique among all the amateur astronomy books in print today.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Cosmic "Tour de Force" 3 July 2011
By Richard Sanderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everybody loves a challenge, and stargazers are no exception. With today's huge Dobsonian telescopes and CCD cameras, technology has blurred the boundary lines between amateur and professional observers. Indeed, today's most advanced stargazers are glimpsing objects that their counterparts of a few decades ago had never even heard of ("What the heck is Terzan 7?"). Not everyone owns a giant telescope and Philip Harrington recognizes this in his latest book, "Cosmic Challenge," which provides a wonderful collection of challenges that will test the skills of celestial observers using all levels of instrumentation.

Harrington's book is attractive and very well organized. Following an introductory chapter about equipment and observing tips, he divides his cosmic challenges into categories based on instrument size, from naked-eye and binoculars to telescopes ranging from small to "monster" scopes. Each challenge object includes a difficulty rating. Harrington's finder charts are very useful and his portrayals of the objects themselves are extremely realistic. For example, one of my favorite targets is the Whirlpool Galaxy, and his depiction of this object in the "Medium-scope challenges" chapter is dead-on: two very dim blobs of light with slightly brighter nuclei and the slightest hint of spiral arms. That's exactly how I see it in my 8-inch.

Harrington's challenges, which number over 500 targets, include all types of deep-sky objects. Many of them have been overlooked in other observing guides. He also features double and multiple stars, as well as lunar and planetary observations. Some of the challenges are even suitable for city-dwellers.

"Cosmic Challenge" is the latest in a long line of exceptional books written by Phil Harrington and in my opinion, this work is his "tour de force." I have no doubt that this book will be an indispensible resource for serious observers for decades to come.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A well conceived observing guide! 22 Oct. 2011
By Rodger Raubach - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phil Harrington simply continues on a roll with this, his latest effort in an observational astronomy observing guide. I haven't yet had an opportunity to use his book at the eyepiece, but I've read a large number of the descriptions therein.

It's very nice, since not everyone has a "monster" telescope, and there is a wide variety and range of relative difficulty included. Prior to buying this volume, I have already observed quite a few of the objects included. I particularly like the very "informational" approach taken by the author, and clarifies to a great degree what the average person can expect to see (or...not see!).

Strong points: Wide range of objects to observe; good descriptive information.

Weak points: Only one complaint on my part, and that is a bit more "finding" information would be useful

Overall, very few "warts" to complain about. Well worth the price and a fun read, to boot!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great Book, Bad Binding 1 July 2011
By J. Jones - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book, but I had to return it twice to Amazon. Pages 1 thru 18 fell out of both books they sent. Cambridge University Press is a good publisher, but they totally botched the binding of these books this time. I'm very disappointed. I love this book, but should I give it only one star just for the bad binding?

This would be a disservice to Phil Harrington's great effort. Am I reviewing the Seller, the Publisher, or the Author here? I should give it five stars for Phil's excellent work, and call the defects exceptions to the rule for Cambridge University Press. They have the all-time most successful astronomy book ever, in durability and otherwise in my opinion, 'Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep Sky Objects'. A book that has lasted 20 years without losing a page, I have two copies. I only take one into the field, and it has gotten cold, gotten hot, and gotten wet!

The first 'Cosmic Challenge' book I ordered from Amazon, the section from the black title page to page 18 fell right out. The replacement, the same section came loose and fell out after lying open on the table for about an hour (can't blame QC for that). This was very surprising to me. I find it highly unlikely that I got the only two defective copies out of the whole lot. I hope Amazon investigates and looks into this problem quickly.

ANYWAYYY, this book is highly recommended. It's not only a ready reference for very relevant 'facts and factoids', from the naked-eye to extremely! deep space objects, familiar and not so familiar, but has this 'information-in-one-place' aspect that I find extremely useful. I noticed this when I paged thru it, and when I sat down and read, I found in-depth and authoritative information about some familiar objects that isn't anywhere else, and information on some obscure objects that is presently scattered about and would have to be hunted down and gathered together. This is a big book (almost 500 pages), lots of fun, interesting reading on lots of objects from Pleiades to Palomars. Phil has done an excellent job of choosing which objects to include, their history, why they are a challenge, and how to best meet those challenges to best observe each object.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I enjoyed it greatly 14 Nov. 2013
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, I'm prejudiced. I love Harrington's style. But I think you will like this book. Plenty in it for those of us who have binos and small telescopes and/or are observing (regrettably ) in light polluted urban backyards.
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