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Herschel 400 Observing Guide Paperback – 11 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (11 Feb 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107632005
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107632004
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 2 x 27.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 507,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'O'Meara takes a list of admittedly faint objects and injects new life into them. Right or wrong, many amateur astronomers won't consider you a top-level observer until you've completed the Herschel 400. Don't do it for them, however. Pick up this book, set up your telescope, and do it for yourself. It's a lot of fun.' Michael Bakich, Astronomy.com

'This book is a great way of pushing beyond the popular Messier catalogue to broaden your viewing horizons.' Paul Money, Sky at Night

'[This book] is a far better guide to the Herschel objects than the one available from the AL. It is well presented … to be recommended to observers looking for an organized project with medium-sized telescopes after completing the Messier list.' Owen Brazell, The Observatory

'The Herschel 400 Observing Guide is a very good book, whose main strength is its instructions for locating objects. Even if you are not interested in seeing all of the Herschel 400 objects, I recommend it as a good mid-range guide to the deep sky.' Lee Macdonald, Journal of the British Astronomical Association

'This book is very nicely produced … The layout is very well thought out … [O'Meara] works through the objects in a carefully planned and methodical way, ensuring that the minimum of telescope time is employed in locating objects and in moving from one object to the next.' Alex Crowther, Astronomy and Space

'A good resource for anyone wishing to explore the deep sky.' Astronomy Now

Book Description

In this guide Steve O'Meara leads the observer through the 400 galaxies, nebulae and star clusters in the Herschel 400 list in a carefully planned and methodical way. Ideal for astronomers who have tackled the Messier objects, this richly illustrated guide will help the amateur astronomer hone their observing skills.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Prof G. J. Parker on 6 Sep 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Herschel 400 is a list of 400 objects catalogued by the eighteenth century astronomers Caroline and William Herschel. I put Caroline's name first here because she apparently made a couple of new discoveries, not on Messier's list, and this prompted William to start his own in-depth search for new "nebulae". Working together the search produced over 2,500 objects of which the most impressive 400 were chosen to create the Herschel 400 catalogue. Objects in this catalogue include galaxies, open clusters, planetary nebulae, bright nebulae and globular clusters.

If you have exhausted the Messier and Caldwell catalogues, then the Herschel 400 may well be next on your list. O'Meara has listed these objects month by month for ease of observing. He tells you clearly how to locate each object and gives a general (usually short) description for each object. Black and white images as well as wide-field and narrow-field star charts accompany the text to make location of the objects easier. All the objects are listed in Appendix A, there is an Appendix B checklist of the 400, and there is a good index. But I find the book is a let-down after the superb Messier objects, Caldwell Objects and Hidden Treasures all written by O'Meara, and all incidentally also published by Cambridge.

So what went wrong? In my opinion, if you have a winning formula stick with it! If it ain't broke don't fix it. Several things have changed from the winning formula, none of which I personally find an improvement. The first and most important part that is missing as far as I'm concerned is the superb in-depth description of objects as given in his previous works. The general descriptions given in the Herschel 400 are short, accurate and clinical - not much "heart and soul" has gone into this work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Good down to earth method to get there 13 Aug 2008
By Pierre Dessemontet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For who is accustomed to lavishly laid-out O'Meara's other guides (the Deep-Sky Companions), well, this is not it. No beautiful sketches taken at the ocular from the master, no thoroughly developed histories of the objects, their discovery and particularities.

Instead, what you have here is a very clearly laid-out plan to tackle the Herschel 400 night by night, month by month, short descriptions to what there is to see and the difficulty of the object, a description of the the nightly star-hop to bag them, and a smallish picture of the object. It reminds me of The Year-Round Messier Marathon Field Guide: With Complete Maps, Charts and Tips to Guide You to Enjoying the Most Famous List of Deep-Sky Objects, in that it is really a guide to get there. In all, a very good book, quite useful if you intend to go deeper than Messier.

One thing though (and four stars instead of five)- as compared to his previous guides, the mapping is dissapointing, and the finder maps are quite useless; you will need a good star atlas (Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas, or Sky Atlas 2000.0, 2nd Deluxe Edition by Wil Tirion (Author), Roger W. Sinnott (Author)) along to tackle the faint fuzzies.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An excellent field guide 8 April 2010
By Ivan Maly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found that I stuck with the Herschel 400 list, rather than doing any of its many alternatives for the mid-level deep sky exploration, primarily due to the allure of retracing not only the great H's footsteps in the sky but also the author's. Using an old telescope very similar to the author's, I was able to complete the list in just over a year without much difficulty from a dark site using this book. This greatly improved my knowledge of the sky and observing skills. I found the objects' appearances at very similar magnifications generally consistent with the author's descriptions: sometimes I can see more than the author could (most buoying!), but of course more often I see less. On a few occasions (less than 10% of the objects), I preferred to use an atlas (S&T Pocket Atlas or Uranometria) instead of, or in addition to the charts in the book. With these few exceptions, the book was quite sufficient at the telescope in the field. The author organized the list into 12 months and 7 observing nights per month. Most of the time, I simply followed the order of objects in the book for each month. Preparing for an observing session thus meant simply not forgetting the book. However, on occasion I actually had to do a little planning with planetarium software, because the optimal order for few long observing sessions from a remote dark site is not the same as when observing 7 nights a month, and because in real life whole months can pass without an opportunity to observe. The book is still holding up reasonably well (no loose pages) despite having been soaked with dew almost every time. For a beginner with a small telescope under dark skies, this book's usability in my actual experience is right up there with Pennington's Year-Round Messier Marathon.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Herschel 400 seen by the best eyes in Astronomy 23 Nov 2008
By Paul H. Guttman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steve O'Meara is not only one of the most prolific of writers in Astronomy, but also blessed with incredibly sharp vision. He described visually radial banding in the rings of Saturn years before it was proven with the Cassini probe! His sharpness of vision is in evidence by his attention to detail and consistency of presentation that makes Herschel 400 a "must own" field guide for the amateur and professional observer. One word of advice to the visually challenged, some of the Herschel objects are very faint; a large Dobsonian mounted Newtonian telescope of 12" or larger equipped with quality eyepieces will bring out the resolution and details that you might expect to see from the photographs in the book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A book I really use 17 Nov 2009
By R. Allnutt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I use this book every time I go out to knock out another part of the Herschel 400 list. Mr O'Meara has created just the right book for the purpose. I really like his Messier book and the drawings in it are just what I needed to get started with deep sky objects. This book is different, than the Messier book, but is still just what I need to work this much harder list.

By now, I get the principle of what something looks like, and how it looks different than photographs. Now, I just want some help finding the object. This book gives me just what I need to bridge the gap between an atlas and the object I am looking for.

I start out with an area of the sky I want to investigate on a particular month. Mr O'Meara's approach takes me from a simple atlas through a practical star hop to the object. Using a simple Dobsonian scope, I am not able to just scan the area for a bright object (like I did with the Messier objects). Instead, I need hints and surrounding stars to hone in to the exact area of sky I will be looking at.

The attached photo for each object is just enough to let me know that I am looking at the object I am meant to be seeing. I have not glommed in on a nearby brighter object.

I have used the book to find 54 of the 400 so far. The binding is staying in good shape, though some of the pages are warped with dew. This practical book will likely be worn out by my search through these deep sky objects. But like a great text book, I will hold on to it as a testament to the work I did and the things I learned while I was growing in my observing skills.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
guide to your herschel checklist 28 Aug 2010
By drollere - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
some amateur astronomers follow a quest that parallels the lifetime checklist of ardent birdwatchers: viewing every one of the objects in the "herschel 400". This is a radically truncated sample of the 2446 objects credited to william herschel in the last edition of the New General Catalog, made in 1976 as a challenge to amateur astronomers by the members of the ancient city astronomy club (st. augustine, florida). according to o'meara, all the objects are potentially visible in a 4" telescope, though the plague of urban and suburban light pollution means that many of these objects will be challenging to find for observers using a 6" or larger telescope. enter o'meara and his guide to help with any difficulties.

to encourage your persistence, o'meara provides a blank checklist at the back of the book where the reader can note the date and circumstances of each observation (nothing like a half completed list to keep up your resolve). the book itself is handsomely but efficiently formatted: divided first by seasons, and then by months, each month outlines seven nights of about 5 observations per night. there is a 3" square black and white photograph of each object, with an angular size scale included; the text for each entry includes a general description (curiously, this omits the date of discovery), instructs how to find the object, and describes its appearance in small and larger telescopes. high resolution star charts for each night are grouped on a single page, for easy reference, and o'meara even offers observing tips to capture very faint or difficult objects (of NGC6118: "averted vision, a dark sky, and lots of time breathing rhythmically and lightly tapping the telescope tube, to set the object in motion, will help to bring it out.") the introduction includes sketches of the typical appearance of each type of object (nebula, globular cluster, etc.), a list of constellations and their abbreviations, and a short discussion of visual magnitudes.

i was pleased to find a short biographical section on herschel, his sister caroline, the instruments they used and the difficulties they faced in making their historic deep sky discoveries. i visited herschel's home in bath, england, and welcome this salute to two fine astronomers, both for their own work and as representatives of the many innovative and often self trained scientist entrepreneurs of the 18th century.
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