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The Planet Observer's Handbook [Paperback]

Fred W. Price
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 33.99
Price: 29.18 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 Oct 2000
This is an informative, up-to-date and well-illustrated guide to planetary observations for amateurs. After a brief description of the solar system and a chapter on the celestial sphere, readers are shown how to choose, test and use a telescope with various accessories and how to make observations and record results. For each planet and the asteroids, details are given of observational techniques, together with suggestions for how to make contributions of scientific value. From a general description and detailed observational history of each planet, observers can anticipate what they should see and assess their own observations. The chapter on planetary photography includes the revolutionary use of videography, charge coupled devices and video-assisted drawing. There are also chapters on making maps and planispheres and on photoelectric photometry.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (26 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521789818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521789813
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 18.4 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,238,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'… [contains] a tremendous amount of useful information, and helpful advice … a definite success … valuable both to the beginner and to the serious planetary observer. I strongly recommend it.' Patrick Moore, New Scientist

'… [contains] many pearls of information … presented concisely with excellent illustrations … a synopsis of historical observations provides excellent foundations for planning observational programs...' Donald Parker, Sky and Telescope

'This first-class introductory book … is one of the best … A great deal of invaluable information, factual and historical, has been condensed into this handbook …'. Irish Astronomical Journal

'… contains a wealth of information … an excellent handbook on the planets. Recommended.' Reference Book Review

'The Planetary Observer's Handbook is a valuable source of information and advice for anyone interested in our planetary neighbours. It is an enthusiastic and well written work and I recommend it to both the beginner and the serious planetary observer.' Antony Brian, Astronomy Now

'Whether your interest is in simple visual observation, scientifically useful observing projects or anywhere in between The Planet Observer's Handbook is the book for you.' Astronomy and Space

Book Description

This is an informative, up-to-date and well-illustrated guide for amateur astronomers who wish to make useful observations of the solar system planets and asteroids. Highly-detailed practical instructions are provided to observational techniques and the recording and analysis of data.

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Astronomy has always been a popular hobby with all kinds of people, especially since the arrival of the 'Space Age'. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book rocks the universe!!! 7 May 2001
This is a fantastic concise astronomical guide to the planets. The Solar System is broken down into it`s various components and guidance on locating, viewing, and documenting are all given. Excellent advice on choosing the right telescope the first time for all budding beginners. This guide is one of the best beginners tools that I could ever recommend. All the necessary information is there and there is plenty more for the intermediate to expert level astronomer.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to practical planetary observations. 14 Sep 1998
By JK Saggese (jk.saggese@prodigy.net) - Published on Amazon.com
Fred Price has produced a wonderful guide to the inquisitive amateur astronomer who wants to undertake solar system observations. The book provides a very thorough and useful discussion of the solar system and "celestial sphere," and progresses into a fairly standard, but very informative, discussion about telescopes and atmospheric conditions. The meat of the book assigns one chapter to each planet; for each planet the author provides the essential orbital characteristics, physical properties, etc., and an enlightening relation of the history of each planet's observations. This history not only prepares the observer for what to expect to see at the eyepiece, but allows him to place the quality of his observations in historical context. Finally, Dr. Price provides suggestions of good science which a dedicated and moderately well-equipped amateur can perform, contributing usefully to human knowledge of the solar system. I found this book quite informative, and found that it has enriched my observing experience at the telescope.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extensive exposition of the Solar System 9 Aug 2001
By Bill Wiegert - Published on Amazon.com
This terrific book is an illustrated and textual exposition of the Solar System - a guided tour of the planets and their characteristics - from the transients of Mercury to eclipses and occultations of Pluto and Charon. Except for a few singular and minor omissions, The Planet Observer's Handbook qualifies as one of the best works on the Solar System to date. In fact we've included it on the Belmont Society's "Required Reading List" for the amateur astronomer.
Advanced amateurs may want to skim through the first chapters - dealing with telescope types, accessories, components of the celestial sphere, and introductory terminology. There are however, some eye-catching moments for jaded readers, like the apodizing (antidifraction) screen, a simple homemade device to limit diffraction and the effects of atmospheric turbulence while not adversely affecting image contrast or quality (it's actually an old trick, but not that well known).
This book was not intended to be a "post card catalog" of pretty pictures. Thus there are no contemporary photographs such as pictures of Venus from the HST, or a Cassinni fly-by image of Io against the festooned background of Jupiter. There are however, many pertinent photos and illustrations to serve historic interest and to offer educational impact. We find this arrangement to be perfectly suitable and appropriate.
Some may be surprised and/or a little disappointed that our moon is not included here. But keep in mind that the moon is a subject unto itself, and thus deserves a work of a separate magnitude - and there are several available.
There are some disappointments: Aside from some basic illustrations for the purpose of scale, this work is notably lacking in accurate renditions of the orbital planes of major satellites. Also, in light of various discussions about several other oddities, there is virtually none (or even any speculation) about the drastic tilt of Uranus. We find this to be curiously conspicuous, as it's one of the most striking anomalies in the Solar System.
There is skillful discussion of little-known and much-neglected Solar System components, like the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, and some insightful speculation of such things as their respective associations with short and long term comets. There is also some discussion of an almost ubiquitous "Planet-X", the existence of which is argued to this day as being the cause for Neptunian perturbations. This parallels some speculation (or at least the opinion) that Pluto and Charon are in fact not the ninth planet and its moon, but simply major lost-in-space chunks of accreted or captured "debris".
We found the brief presentation and subsequent explanation of Bode's Law to be the best we have seen offered in a non-college level text. This intriguing mathematical statement is so staggeringly significant, (yet surprisingly simple) that it boggles the mind.
Finally, there is considerable discussion of the data and knowledge that can be contributed by amateur astronomers. This discussion is a clever form of interactive "provocation" and is to be applauded. Author Price emphatically encourages dedicated amateurs to take up the gauntlet, and involve themselves in observational contributions to the sciences, and he makes a fair attempt at describing how to accomplish it, including addresses of where to send your observations and data. However, you shouldn't feel bad if you don't have the time or the inclination to engage in such ambitious activities.
The average amateur astronomer who is even mildly interested in the Solar System will benefit greatly from this work, and will likely gain a great deal of knowledge and insight about the countless and innumerable objects that circle the Sun.
Highly recommended.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too advanced for me 9 April 2003
By Po H. Chiu - Published on Amazon.com
I was surprised by the technical flavor of this book, as I expected (wrongly, it turned out) a beginner to mid-level observation handbook which I could take out with me on my observation trips.
The book is over 400 pages long, all written in 10 point Times font. There are very little illustrations and photo, and they are all in black and white. So it looks like a college science textbook and is very challenging visually.
Each of the sections on each planet have the same subsections such as "History of Observation" (mostly useless to me), "Observing [Jupiter, etc.]" and "Space craft Obsevation of [Jupiter, etc.]"
It also seems that to see most of the stuff described in this book, you need to have a telescope that is at least 8 inches, so that is out of my league.
However, in fairness, I know that this is a very compresensive book on the subject, and answers all possible questions that one may have on observing the planets.
But as I said, this book is more suitable for the advanced amateur Astronomer.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Intro may have skewed my opinion.... 11 Jun 2003
By Dennis Mabrey - Published on Amazon.com
Unlike the other reviews, I thought the book was not that technical at all. The book at first seemed to dedicate too many pages to the same topics you find in every beginner astro book, telescope types, eyepiece types, etc... The information on the planets were not as detailed as I had hoped (sans Saturn). Most of this information and much more can be found on the Web. I did think the chapter on the minor planets was worth the read.
I must admit, my opinion of this book may have been heavily skewed because I "accidentally" read the introduction. In there, Fred Price compares planetary astronomers to real "observers" and anyone who observes deep-sky objects to "sightseers".
Hmmm... the AAVSO might differ with that opinion, as would a number of organizations who do deep sky research. Maybe I was just too sensitive, but the introduction did rub me the wrong way. It is true, I do often "sight see" deep sky objects for the challenge of seeing something I had not seen and to improve my "observing eye" (ability to see detail with your eyes). I do not care what Dr. Price thinks of me in doing so. However, I know many people who think the opposite way, that observing the planets is a dull and boring task that already much is known about. I think both sides are wrong to be so damned elitist about it.
Besides that, it is a good book :-)
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for the dedicated planet observer! 12 Feb 2001
By Ritesh Laud - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a good read for the general amateur astronomer and a required text for the dedicated planet observer. I fall in the "general amateur" category and do not have the patience nor inclination to devote my observing time to sketching the planets night after night. Yet I enjoyed the book anyway and it gave me a sound appreciation for the dynamic nature of our neighbors in the solar system as well as the numerous ways in which the serious amateur can contribute to the science.
This book is replete with details on the numerous features visible on the planets through amateur telescopes. It also gives advice on what type of telescope to use and what magnifications to employ. Basic scientific data on each planet (rotation rate, mass, distance, etc.) is included for reference as well as a lengthy history of observation for each planet, but the emphasis of this book is on *amateur observation*, as implied by the title. You won't find theories on Saturn's cloud decks or the origins of Mars' surface features. What you will find are detailed tips and advice on how to look for and draw the spokes in Saturn's rings, festoons between Jupiter's cloud belts, the "purple haze" on Mars, filters to employ, etc.
A necessary work at a great price for the hardcore planet observer! For the casual amateur, a bit expensive and over-the-top but still a useful addition to the library. I give it five stars because it adheres to its stated purpose faithfully and with style.
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