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Practical Astronomy with your Calculator Paperback – 2 Feb 1989


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 3 edition (2 Feb 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521356997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521356992
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 510,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Astronomers have always been concerned with time and its measurements.. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mark@liv.ac.uk on 16 Jan 2001
Format: Paperback
I have often had to refer to my copy of this book during the period of my PhD - it is different from other similar books in that it provides worked examples broken down line by line. I believe it to be useful for the physical sciences, but also a good way to learn algorithm construction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JP on 2 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
I like this book, because it is very practical, well structured and easy to use.
Inside 'Practical Astronomy with your calculator' you can find all the most common practical
problems of astronomy and ready to use recipes of how to calculate and find the solutions to
these problems. The best thing of it all is that it can all be done with a rather simple, but
modern calculator that includes trigonometric functions. This means that no complex derivatives,
integration or programming is needed!
I tried for example to calculate my local sidereal time (or 'star time') here in Denmark at any
date and time of the year. Then I double checked the results with online 'astronomical watches'
and it all fit very well....
Try to calculate any of the astronomical relations yourself and you will know what I mean!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vicky J on 5 Jun 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a later edition which uses calculator or spreadsheet. Things have moved on since 1989 and even calculators are more advanced now. I bought this with a view to explaining astronomical relationships to my nephew aged 15 at the time; at his request. It didn't work because he had insufficient maths and knowledge of algorithms. Maybe I expected too much.

It certainly isn't a simple guide although the examples are worked through in detail, line by line. Sometimes, functions are introduced on the basis "this is how it is" without too much detail of their origins. Perhaps that's necessary.

I tried to use it to calculate the sunrise and sunset times for any stated latitude; and it didn't help. I ended up forming the model for myself. But this book is interesting and has its uses. Now go for the recent edition and use spreadsheets.
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By Fantasyreader on 27 Dec 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its okay and useful for the budding astronomer growing up in todays world and unlikely to go out of date.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 27 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This book is as beautiful as an astrolabe 5 Oct 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For all stargazers who have university level math, and those equipped with lighter high school stuff, this book is a gem. In a few pages, and with nothing more than a pocket calculator, it allows you to explore the universe in a way which only a few hundred years ago was only possible with extensive state-support and massive buildings such as Stonehenge, state-sponsored observatories, and teams of pedantic astrologers and stargazers.

Starting from the simple building blocks (converting your local time to Universal time), it progresses to more and more complex calculations, until finally at the end, you can calculate eclipses and planetary orbits. All the formulas needed for doing this are given in the book, and explained in great detail with many diagrams. All relevant astronomical data is also given. And for every calculation, a sample example is carried out with real numbers, which you can trace along with, so by the end of it you understanding is complete, practically as well as theoretically.

A must read for any astronomy buff. I highly recommend it. It produces the information age equivalent of that feeling of satisfaction you get when you build a telescope and look out onto the heavens yourself--without any intermediaries. Astronomy and stargazing are the activities which were the genesis of the scientific revolution, more than 6000 years ago. This book shows you just how its done.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Value at $11.80 25 Nov 2003
By Railbird - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Amateur astronomers will be able to solve a multitude of practical problems with this book. If you are short on funds and have time to explore, this is the book for you. It is well organized and reasonably complete.

The extremely concise - bordering on laconic - style poses the danger that some readers may become discouraged and will give up. The low price makes it a tempting entry-level book, but the terse explanations means you'll have to do a lot of digging, which is a cookbook recipe to discourage newcomers to a field.

I have two critiques of this otherwise excellent work.

1.) The formulae presented in this book are a little too "cookbook" in for my tastes.

2.) Further they are only weakly validated, so it is difficult to know how accurate the results are.

The cookbook nature provides little insight into the physical problem being solved. It did motivate me to buy and study Smart's "Spherical Astronomy". If you want more than superficial answers, you'll need to dig deeper.

Validation is rarely a problem for amateurs. Most people who buy this book will program the recipes on their home computers. (Most are readily amenable to treatment in spreadsheets.) So far, no problem. But how do you know whether or not your calculation of the position of Mars 60,000 ago is any good?

I think that Meeus and Montenbruck largely avoid these problems, but at a much higher selling price.

*****

UPDATE: They must have read my review! There is a new version of this book by Cambridge Press and a website from which you can download spreadsheets implementing at least some of the algorithms. You do not have to buy the book to download the spreadsheets, but if you can afford the book, you shouldn't be a free loader. I did download a couple of the spreadsheets to check them out. I had some stylistic issues initially, a kind of "that's not how I would have done it" reaction. On second thought, from a purely diadatic prespective, their approach is better. I tested the accuracy of solar ephemerides for the next 400 years, and they agree with JPL Horizons to within 0.0055 degrees RMS. If you need better than that, you shouldn't be using a spreadsheet. I found I could reduce the disagreement to less than 0.0014 degrees RMS by adding a term to account for the 18.60 year precession of the lunar nodes. I hardly recommend trying to improve it, it is more than adequate as is. I will review the new book once I've had more time to study it.

Since I broached the topic, I'll supply the formula for the correction to the spreadsheet SunPos:

e = Ao*sin( 6793/2/pi()*T + phi)

Ao = 0.004119054
T = days since Jan 1, 2000 00h UTC
phi = 3.593663052

It's not worth doing, but I did it anyway. I've only done a fit over the period 2000 AD to 2400 AD.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Nice at twice the price 22 Jan 2001
By Rick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Don't be misled by the title. The recipes supplied by Peter Duffett-Smith are aimed at making calculations easier with a hand held calculator. However they are easily adapted for creating utilities on personal computers. The material should be easily handled by anyone whose completed highschool algebra and some trigonometry.
The organization and format is well thought out. The earliest chapters deal with time and coordinates which are used in the more complex problems such as computing planet positions later in the book.
Each concept is explained in straight forward language and conventional algebraic formulas are supplied. I found this especially useful for programmers using higher languages such as C,Pascal or Java. Then a step by step practical example is provided that is suitable for a scientific hand calculator. Duffett-Smith is careful about displaying units; a mindfield for most scientific calculations.
My only minor criticism is that some of the typos errors could leave a user quite frustrated. On pp108 I found the value of Tp=0.240850 gave the correct answer while the tabulated value is 0.240852. Similarly, I on page 129, after repeated checks, I got a value of 7.08...AU for Rho compared with the value of 8.13AU in the book. The text cites a 7.2AU value from the Astronomical Almanac.
Otherwise this is one neat addition to the bookshelf of any amateur astronomer of individual interested in astromical calculations.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A ultimate book for start of computational astronomy 24 May 2001
By HO WAI KUEN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am a Chinese from Hong Kong, China. I first read this book was on 1985 on Public Library, it the the only computational astronomy related book. At that time, I was being a secondary school student. This book I found is a very good on basic concept in positional astronomy and other fundamental knowledges concerning in basic ephemeris work. The English of this book is plain and be within the level of Hong Kong secondary school students. Starting from this book, I was being attracted on computational astronomy till now, recently I am in the way of writing of homepage of computational astronomy in Chinese, with the "practical astronomy with your calculator" as paradigm. I am so highly recommended this book.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great book for advanced and beginning astronomers 17 Oct 1998
By Shane Taylor (ktaylor552@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I use this book in my Astronomical observation class and it has helped understand some of the higher mathematical formulas involved in astronomical observing. You can understand it better if you have had some pre-calc/calculus exposure, but for the most part the formulas are well explained.
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