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The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series) (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
The Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series) (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
by Jerry D. Cavin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Ptolemy to Moore, 27 Oct. 2012
The Amateur Astronomers Guide to the Deep-Sky Catalogs is published as part of Springer's `Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series'. The book provides complete listings of the important deep sky catalogs considered useful for amateur astronomy. The listings make up around 80% of the content, the remainder introduces the reader to the people behind the catalogs; those Astronomers and observers throughout history that have spent large parts of their lives documenting and refining their observations.

Catalogs included start with Ptolemy's Almagest or the `Great Book', Ptolemy performed his observations of the heavens during the second century Anno Domini, and ends with the Caldwell Catalog created by Sir Patrick Caldwell-Moore in the nineteenth century. The book therefore provides nearly two thousand years of documented observations.

The catalog listings will make an excellent resource for amateur astronomers giving co-ordinate locations and other information on thousands of galaxies, stars and nebula. The all to brief bio's provide a delicious taster into the lives of some fascinating characters and will act as a prompt for more in depth research.

A thoroughly recommended book for all amateur astronomers.

Paul Rumsby
October 2012.

The Olive Grove
The Olive Grove
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Olive Grove, 15 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Olive Grove (Kindle Edition)
It's been a while since I read a story as sensual and erotic as The Olive Grove. Narcisse Navarre's character Gia Bruno flees the routine of New York hoping to find love, sex and her family's roots on a vacation to Italy. What she discoverers is a dream world of sexual fantasy weaved by Oviello the keeper, a lustful creature from a half remembered realm.

I don't think this will be the last we hear of Gia and Oviello.

Enjoyed every word...

We are the Martians: Connecting Cosmology with Biology
We are the Martians: Connecting Cosmology with Biology
by Giovanni F. Bignami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.99

5.0 out of 5 stars We are the Martians, 30 Sept. 2012
We are the Martians is a new book from Springer by Professor Giovanni Fabrizio Bignami a leading physicist and astronomer who since 2010 has been president of COSPAR, the world wide Committee on Space Research. Professor Bignami is one of the foremost authorities on astrophysical and space research and has been the recipient of numerous awards including the American Astronomical Society's Rossi prize.

In We are the Martians Professor Bignami connects Cosmology with Biology through a 13.7 billion year journey from the first few minutes after the Big Bang, the formation of the first stars and galaxies, the stellar fusion of heavier than hydrogen `metals' up to iron, the subsequent fusion of the remaining heavier elements and their dispersal into the interstellar medium during violent supernovae explosions to the formation of planetary systems from embryonic protoplanetary discs. The book goes on to explore exo-planets discovered around other stars and their means of discovery.

The book progresses to investigate differing forms of astronomy where either the Universe has come to us in the form of meteorites and the natural exchanges of matter between neighbouring planets or where we have gone out to the Universe in the shape of manned missions and unmanned probes. Comets, carriers of at least some of the building blocks of life, and their possible or more likely probable, exchanges between stellar systems is discussed before going on to explore life itself and asks the difficult questions; what is life? How do we define life? Is life a coincidence or a probable phenomenon and how do we recognise life that is not carbon based, if such a thing indeed exists? Professor Bignami demonstrates that there are still `black holes' in our knowledge and understanding of these, the most fundamental questions.

Professor Bignami draws to a close by looking at mans search for other life in the Universe, for ET, at the messages we have wittingly and unwittingly (radio waves) sent out into the cosmos and also at what remains to be discovered and in what timescales.

The author has done an excellent job of keeping difficult subjects understandable and in doing so has created a thought provoking work that is a joy to read although the translation from the Italian is very literal at times.

Two final thoughts from the book:

Science has demonstrated that organic material, the building blocks of life could have been deposited on Earth from Mars and/or other star systems, if this is the case then we are the Martians, we are the aliens.

We are directly connected to the Big Bang. Human composition is more than 50% water, the two atoms of hydrogen in every molecule of that water was created during the first three minutes following the birth of the Universe. We are not only children of the stars but of creation itself.

Paul Rumsby
Best Astronomy Books

Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries (Springer Praxis Books)
Soviet Robots in the Solar System: Mission Technologies and Discoveries (Springer Praxis Books)
by JR., Wesley T. Huntress
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soviet Robots in the Solar System, 19 Oct. 2011
Most of us living in the West have grown up with the excitement and thrill of the American space programme. How many people alive today have not heard of NASA? The acronym is synonymous with space exploration. The reasons are many, but one of the key factors is that NASA is a non military organization; it needs public support to function. It requires publicity.

In comparison the Soviet Union's space programme was controlled by the military and was shrouded in secrecy. Successful missions were announced, failures often kept classified. One might be surprised then by the number of Soviet achievements; first artificial satellite, first animal in space, first human in space, first woman in space, first spacewalk, first lunar impact, first lunar orbit, first image of the far side of the moon, first lunar soft landing, first robotic rover, first planetary probe, first planetary landing to list a few.

The veil of secrecy surrounding the Soviet space programme was partially lifted with Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost during the 1980's but full disclosure came only with the decline and eventual demise of the Soviet Union in the 1990's. A full account of the Soviet exploration of space has only recently come to light both in the East and West.

`Soviet Robots in the Solar System' tells this story in fine detail. Set against the cold war and the chilling development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which produced the rocket technology to enable large payloads to escape Earth's gravity, the book traces the dogged determination of the state and the dreams and ambitions of a select group of its people through the triumphs, the failures and the frustrations of sending machines into space. It is a fascinating insight into the space race seen from the Soviet perspective and is intriguing both in a scientific and historical context.

The book spans the period between the first Soviet lunar attempt in 1958 and their last deep space mission to Mars in 1996, focusing solely on those missions targeting the moon and planets and purposefully excludes Solar and Earth-Moon environment exploration.

Part one sets the scene with an account of the key political and scientific people whose power over funding and academic resources was instrumental in creating the Soviet space programme. The first part goes on to describe the main institutions which would fund, design, build and ultimately launch and track the missions and closes with a detailed look at the spacecraft and the rockets which lifted them, or valiantly attempted to, beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Part two, the main bulk of the book, is broken into campaigns covering a specific time period and objective. The campaigns are chronological in order starting with a failed attempt at a lunar impactor in September 1958. Campaigns are put into political and historical context but the majority of the text is given to the scientific, engineering and technical aspects of each mission. The spacecraft and science experiments they carried out are described in detail and a summary of the results given.

If I was asked to sum this book up in one word it would have to be `detailed'. There is a huge amount of information here which is probably all in one place for the very first time. Apart from the scientific detail the historical side of the book is a revelation and is well worth reading for that reason alone. The Soviet drive for achievement and international recognition, which they deservedly won with Vega in 1985 and lost with the `failure' of Phobos in 1988, along with a desperate need for superiority in space, at any cost, is palpable and runs through the entire book.

An interesting book a great read and a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in the history of space exploration.

Paul Rumsby
Best Astronomy Books,
19th October 2011

Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series) (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope (Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series) (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
by Neil English
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Choosing & Using a Dobsonian Telescope, 4 Oct. 2011
The Telescope market is vast, with a number of popular brands producing 3 main types of telescope, each of which can be further broken down into subtypes and sizes. Cost can be equally confusing with scopes ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds (GBP). It is little wonder then that so many people buy a scope that is unsuited to their needs. What is required is some pre-acquisition research. If you are considering purchasing a Dobsonian telescope, commonly shortened to `Dob', or if you are unsure which telescope type to buy, the small outlay on this book would be a very wise investment.

`Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope' is split into 2 sections, Part One deals with choosing which Dob is most likely to satisfy your requirements, Part 2 progresses to using your Dob once you have taken ownership. The first chapter gives a brief insight into the life of John Dobson, the man who started the Dobsonian revolution in 1960's California. Dobson was instrumental in bringing large aperture telescopes to the masses in a simple and inexpensive form.

Dobsonian telescopes, at their most basic, are Newtonian Reflectors mounted on `Lazy Susan' cradles. Chapter 2 takes the reader through the Newtonian telescope; the components, tube design and how mirrors affect image quality then pauses to reflect on the positives and negatives of this type of telescope. The remainder of part one, chapter's 3 to 8 catalogue the best instruments currently available, each chapter dealing with increasingly larger apertures, from mini 3 inch Dobs to 30 inch monsters. In each aperture class the main contenders are discussed and their assets and drawbacks aired. Photographs are used to enhance descriptions and owner evaluations are included for specific scopes which add an extra level of authority to an already detailed and comprehensive guide.

Two chapters, 5 and 7, deviate from the increasing aperture format in that they focus on Dobs that are specifically designed for planetary observing or are difficult to fit into other chapters because the mounting design is significantly different. In this way the author has successfully managed to compare apples with apples and has left the oranges, happily uncomplicated, in other baskets.

Part 2 of the book starts with an excellent chapter on accessorizing your Dob. Just about everything you could or should have as an optional extra is discussed, again in comprehensive detail. Accessories considered include image correctors, eyepieces, filters, dew prevention, tracking devices and computer control. Accessories are fully explained and pretty much leave no stone unturned.

Chapter 10 covers maintaining your Dob and getting the most from the optics. Subjects include collimating the optical train to ensure images are as sharp and as focused as possible, mirror cleaning and a nice piece on testing your telescope from an optical standpoint which will have you either pulling your hair out or grinning from ear to ear depending on your test results.

Chapter 11 goes on to provide hints and tips on sketching or imaging your observations and gives examples of what can be achieved with patience and a little experience. The book closes with a look into the future of the Dobsonian movement and gives a brief account of a number of projects that look destined to expand Dobson's revolution even further.

In summary, if you are in the market for a Dobsonian Telescope this book is an absolute must. If, after reading, you have failed to make a decision on what or what not to buy, the chances are you never will. Everything is here for you to make that informed judgment before parting with your hard earned money. If, like me, you are not currently considering joining Dobson's revolution or are already a proud owner then this book is still a really enjoyable, interesting read.

I will finish by quoting the author in his poetic salute to a great man who literally brought a Universe into the backyards (and budgets) of thousands, "As these words are written, John Dobson is just ending his 96th trip around the Sun...we'd like to wish John Dobson many more years of glorious existence."

Paul Rumsby
For Best Astronomy Books
2nd October 2011

The Kaguya Lunar Atlas: The Moon in High Resolution
The Kaguya Lunar Atlas: The Moon in High Resolution
by Motomaro Shirao
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kaguya Lunar Atlas, 25 Sept. 2011
On September 14th 2007 the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the SELENE lunar orbiter. SELENE's mission was to further our understanding of the Moons origin, its surface environment and gravitational field. Amongst a host of science experiments the orbiter carried a High Definition Television camera (HDTV) specifically placed to capture panoramic `astronaut' views of the lunar surface.

SELENE, named after the Greek Moon Goddess but nicknamed Kaguya by the Japanese people after a mythical lunar princess, required a full year to image the lunar surface under optimal conditions. The HDTV camera captured significant surface features, impact craters, maria, rilles, lava flows and geological faults in stunning detail.

The Kaguya Lunar Atlas is a compilation of images from the HDTV. Split into two sections, part one explores the orbiters technology and mission objectives, some impressive images of Earthrise and the Earth's phases as seen by the orbiter's cameras are included. The remainder of the book depict one hundred image plates, each accompanied by a well written, detailed essay of the main features displayed. Seventy seven plates show landforms on the Earth facing side of the moon, the balance on the far side. The image scale varies throughout as Kaguya's altitude above the lunar surface drops from 116 to 21km.

The Kaguya Lunar Atlas works well in several ways. As a coffee table book it will grab and hold the attention of casual readers and is great to dip into occasionally as each page can be enjoyed in isolation. The book encourages readers to interpret the images for themselves. With a little experience one can examine the landforms and begin to work out the formation and modification processes without relying solely on the text. In effect, you lean to read the Moon. If you own a telescope, applying this knowledge at the eyepiece will almost certainly enhance lunar observing sessions and detail that may otherwise have been overlooked can be pursued and with far greater understanding. As a visual catalogue of significant lunar features the book simple excels.

What gives this book the edge over other lunar image compilations is not just the detail and quality inherent on every plate but the oblique angle at which they were captured. The images give a unique sense of actually being there.

Kaguya completed all mission objectives successfully and was impacted into the lunar surface close to crater Gill at 18.25 on June 10th 2009. The book contains the last six images sent back to Earth just before the controlled impact.

Paul Rumsby
September 2011

Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries
Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries
by Govert Schilling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £27.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries, 24 Aug. 2011
Just over four hundred years ago a relatively simple device called the telescope was invented in Middelburg, in the Netherlands and man turned new eyes to the night sky. He saw for the first time a majesty beyond belief, new wonders that would dispel old ideas forever and thrust mans enquiring mind on a journey to the far reaches of the Universe.

The telescope started a revolution of discovery and transformed our view of the planet we live on and its place in the cosmos. Atlas of Astronomical Discoveries takes one hundred of the most significant of these breakthroughs and tells the story behind the science. Stories of persistence, perseverance, human endeavour and sheer good luck abound in all fields and Astronomy, it seems, is no exception. In truth, the full story behind any one of these discoveries deserves a much larger stage but here we have a snapshot, a snippet of the lives and events surrounding some of the most dramatic leaps in human understanding ever seen.

Each new discovery forms a two page spread in this large format book. On one page individual snippets are told in roughly five hundred words, about the same length as this review and are accompanied by a circular insert, the opposite leaf features a full page related image or artists impression. The images taken by probes, satellites and land and space based telescopes are stunning. It is a shame then, that more photographs - or line drawings - of the people behind the discoveries have not been used for the inserts, only Karl Jansky, the discoverer of cosmic radio waves in 1931 makes an appearance; it would be nice to put a few more faces to the names. If I was being picky I would also draw attention to the title, Atlas suggests that geographical location is important to the books structure, but no such empathise is placed on `where' the discoveries took place, more importance is given to `when' and `who' so maybe Timeline of Astronomical Discoveries might have fitted the contents better. These two minor points, the former slightly disappointing the latter trivial, do not take anything away from the main purpose of this book, to provide the reader with brief snapshots of the most spectacular Astronomical discoveries since the invention of the telescope, in a format that is comfortable both visually and in prose.

This is a book that does not demand regimented reading, in fact the book works better if the reader flips around a little, if the book is put down without the pages being marked and is picked up or reopened in different places. Nor does it expect any previous knowledge, no unpronounceable words or incalculable equations are encountered or required. Just an enjoyable book that you will pick up from time to time and wonder at Galileo's excitement observing mountains on the moon for the very first time, at Eddington's delight announcing his observational confirmation of Einstein's prediction that extreme gravity will bend the path of light to a crowded meeting of the Royal Society or Stephane Udry's incredible discovery of an earth like planet orbiting a red dwarf star twenty light years or one hundred and nineteen trillion miles from home.

Paul Rumsby

August 2011

Galaxy Collisions: Forging New Worlds from Cosmic Crashes (Springer Praxis Books)
Galaxy Collisions: Forging New Worlds from Cosmic Crashes (Springer Praxis Books)
by Curtis Struck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Galaxy Collisions, 23 Aug. 2011
Galaxy Collisions is a big book, not physically but conceptually. The author, Curtis Struck, warns us in the preface that the structures and timeframes discussed in the text are vast, almost beyond the ability of the human mind to contemplate meaningfully. It is suggested that a suitable workaround is to imagine these impossibly immense structures as familiar everyday objects and the timeframes the length of a TV drama. This works really well to keep the readers mind from being lost in the scale of the subject.

The study of galaxy collisions is a relatively recent field of research. Not until 1924 when Edwin Hubble, using Henrietta Leavitt's newly discovered correlation between the pulsation period and intrinsic luminosities of Cepheid's, discovered that previously observed `nebular' thought to be located within the Milky Way were far more distant objects, discrete galaxies in their own right, did the fledgling field begin to take flight. Even then it was some years before we conceived the possibility that these far flung, remote objects could interact with each other and had been doing so since the early ages of the Universe.

Hubble classified galaxies as elliptical or spiral. The famous pictorial representation of his classification scheme resembles a tuning fork, with the elliptical galaxies forming the forks handle, the upper fork tine housing spiral galaxies and the bottom tine is home to barred spirals. Along with these three observable types of structure Hubble also observed a small group of galaxies that he classed as `peculiars'. These irregular shaped galaxies gave the first clues that large scale galactic interactions were not just possible but very probable. Galaxy Collisions tells two stories, firstly the history of this field nicely interwoven into the main content, the life story of the grandest assemblages of matter in the Universe and how their interactions have shaped, not just the way we see them, but our very existence.

Starting with the history of galaxy discovery and a general background of the field, Galaxy Collisions goes on to explore the early stages of interaction. How incredibly beautiful, seemingly engineered designs can be the result of head on collisions or gravity induced tidal waves caused by close fly-bys. Colour images, some appropriately from the Hubble Space Telescope, and diagrams support the text where needed throughout. The book continues by exploring galaxy evolution through the build up of matter, firstly between the mergers of equal sized collision partners and then by the capture of small satellite galaxies by an adopting parent. The book details the evidence for the latter currently occurring within the Milky Way environs with the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The spectacular increase in star formation as a result of galaxy interactions and merger events is discussed, the author considerers the statistics and physical processes involved and how these can create and feed Active Galactic Nuclei. The book draws to a close with a look at evidence of galaxy interactions within our local group and on a broader, larger scale how clusters and super clusters of galaxies undergo and are affected by interactions.

The author states, quite rightly, the necessity for staying on track and deliberately keeps the text jargon free where possible and limits it use where not. This he succeeds in doing very well and it is refreshing to read a book that stays strictly on topic. It would be all too easy, considering the scope of the subject, to wander down many a small road and byway. Where an explanation is required to ensure understanding it is given quickly then attention is swiftly refocused back to the main subject. Given this, I feel the reader who has a good understanding of the key concepts of Astronomy will get a lot from this book whereas a novice may well be left floundering, needing to nip out occasionally to fill in some missing information before continuing.

As a means to understanding the large scale structure of the Universe and the short history of its recent discovery Galaxy Collisions works extremely well. As an aside, it also demonstrates nicely the snowballing of scientific research and resources in the last half of Twentieth Century and how these have now spilled out into the public domain. The first models used to explore galaxy interactions in the Sixties pushed computer resources to the limits, restricted the complexity of the models and were available to a few high level researchers. A quick internet search today finds java script apps capable of modelling the collisions of galaxies based on parameters supplied which are probably hundreds of times more powerful and complex than those early models. For both amateur and professional astronomers alike we live in exciting and privileged times.

Paul Rumsby

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