on 7 March 2011
This book is a welcome addition to the discipline's literature. It fills a real need for both theoretical and practical "how-to" information for amateur astronomers.
The writing, organization, editing, layout, color graphics and images are all excellent and reflect the high production values of Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series (Springer) publications.
The book is divided into three sections:
Part One: Introduction to Spectroscopy - Covers the history and theory of the field, including a good discussion of the different types of spectroscopes. Even if you have read this kind of background on the field many times before, you'll find that Ken's presentation and his inclusion of new details makes it fresh and interesting reading.
Part Two: Obtaining and Analyzing Spectra - Discusses how to setup and images with converging beam as well as reflection grating spectroscopes. It also discusses different cameras including DSLRs. There's a chapter that describes how to use VSpec for image processing. This section finishes up with a good discussion of different amateur spectroscope observing projects.
Part Three: Design and Construction - Frankly, my initial response when I thumbed through this section was that it wasn't for me, since I don't plan to ever build my own spectroscope. But, now, having read it through, I think that this section will be appreciated by almost everyone. Yes, there were places that it was a bit more technical than I was interested in. But, the majority of the material I found engaging and very helpful in filling in gaps in my knowledge. Even if you never plan to build your own spectroscope, I think you'll find this section interesting and informative.
One complaint I have about this book is that I frequently found parts that whet my appetite but then, instead of going into more detail, the author moved on to a different topic. This book could have been a lot longer! It's unfortunate that Ken was constrained by the publisher's page count and layout. However, that's one of the realities of book publishing these days. Clearly Ken has a lot more he can write about. Hopefully we'll see additional publications from him in the years to come.
You'll find spectra and images in the book from many of the "usual suspects" in the amateur astronomical community: Hansen, Leadbeater, Buil, Majden, Shelyak, Gavin, etc. Their images are a valuable addition to book, making it more accessible and informative. Thank you all of you for making your work available.
Ken is an active leader in the amateur astronomical spectroscopy community. He's the designer of the the increasingly popular Spectra-L200 spectroscope kit. And he is also an active participant in several on-line communities, including the RSpec real-time spectroscopy forum where he regularly coaches both newcomers and more experienced users. Over the years, his postings and his direct emails have helped many of us deepen our understanding and overcome obstacles we encountered. This book is a further expression of his passion for spectroscopy and his desire to see more involvement in it by amateur astronomers.
Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned expert, I think you'll enjoy and find "Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs" has a lot of valuable information.
I expect that this book will become a well-respected and enduring classic that appears on many of our bookshelves.
Congratulations, Ken, and thank you for a great book and a real contribution to our community!