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Observing the Moon: The Modern Astronomer's Guide Hardcover – 27 Jul 2000
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'Observing the Moon is a beautifully produced, well illustrated, and thorough guide to the techniques of lunar observations, as well as being a detailed A to Z (well Agarum and Albategnius to Wargentin and Wichmann actually) of the more interesting features of the lunar landscape. Huge enjoyment can be obtained from studying our nearest celestial neighbour, and this book will help to improve your technique.' David W. Hughes, The Observatory
'North is full of useful information for backyard astronomers who would like to move to the next level in their observations of the earth's satellite … Key advantages of North's volume include its practical focus - e.g. lots of advice on the strengths and weaknesses of various types of equipment - and its mix of vivid photographs and clarifying maps and charts.' Booklist
'Guided by this book amateurs can undertake observations of real scientific usefulness and thus can make their own contributions to the understanding of our Moon.' Orion (Société Astronomique de Suisse)
'North is an experienced lunar astronomer, and it shows … Observing the Moon will certainly help you on your way to make the most of your time behind the telescope.' Sarah Dunkin, Physics World
'Observing the Moon is a pretty comprehensive guide to beginning lunar observation and recommended reading.' Astronomy and Space
'He advises the novice observer based on his own extensive experience, and he includes a brief review of lunar science from Apollo to Lunar Prospector. North richly illustrates his 48 crater descriptions with drawings, amateur and professional photographs, and spacecraft images … I do recommend North's observing guide as visually pleasing, meaty, easy to read.' Sky & Telescope
'The latest in a long and venerable collection of astronomy titles from Cambridge University.' Bloomsbury Review
Written by an experienced and well-known lunar observer, this is a 'hands-on' primer for the aspiring observer of the Moon. For both novices and those already experienced in practical astronomy, this book provides plenty of advice to help them 'raise their game' to the next level and beyond.See all Product description
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The book is strangely lopsided. Its longest and best section, fully half the book, is a set of detailed descriptions of forty-eight selected regions of the Moon, selected for their topographic variety and interest. Each region is illustrated by photographs and drawings under various illuminations, and North provides descriptive text and an at-the-eyepiece tutorial. The drawings are typical of the British school of lunar drawing: meticulous pen and ink drawings which are striking to look at, but so stylized as to bear little resemblance to what one sees through the eyepiece.
This massive descriptive section is preceded by seven short chapters to provide the reader, whom North typifies as an "interested amateur astronomer who is yet to become a lunar specialist," with the background necessary to begin observations of the Moon. After an introductory chapter, there are sections on the history of lunar observation, equipment and visual observation, photography, electronic imaging, the physical nature of the Moon, and reference sources. Following the large descriptive chapter, there is a chapter on transient lunar phenomena, obviously a subject dear to North's heart. Much of this material is superficial, but it is interlaced repeatedly with rather technical sections, almost as if the author wished to show off his scientific credentials.
When I initially started to read the book, I gravitated to the chapter on reference sources. Clearly North's favourite source is Lunar Sourcebook-a User's Guide to the Moon. Unfortunately this is currently out-of-print. North lists seven books and maps taken from Sky Publishing's web site, which includes such standards as Antonin Rükl's Atlas of the Moon, and then makes an extraordinary statement: "I must admit that I have no personal experience of the adequacy, or otherwise, of any of these items." In other words, he has not bothered to consult a large part of the standard reference works for lunar observers! This was when I seriously began to doubt the quality of the research underlying the rest of the book.
Finally, there is the question of North's writing style. This is what I call the "chatty British eccentric" style, typified by the writing of Patrick Moore and Gerald Durrell. While charming to some in small doses, it definitely becomes tiresome in a long book. Then there is his constant whining about the page limitations imposed on him by his publisher, which he repeatedly uses as an excuse to flog his other book and just about anything else published by Cambridge. It took a major effort of will for me to wade through all this.
So what is an amateur astronomer interested in the Moon to do? My favourite book on the Moon, Rükl's Atlas mentioned above, is currently out-of-print, but due to be reprinted by Sky soon. It is what I always keep at hand while observing the Moon, and is well worth seeking out on the used market. I can't in all honesty recommend North's book to either a beginner or a more advanced student of the Moon.
North starts out by giving a good account of the Moon itself, dealing with such concepts as gravity, tides, phases, libration, lunar coordinates, and occultations. He then goes forward to give a short account of pioneering lunar selenography. Then he goes onward with chapters dealing with drawing the Moon through a telescope and photographing the Moon with both cameras and CCDs. All of these chapters, while good, could have been more in depth, I think.
A (very) short chapter on the Moon as it is studied from the desktop is included. This so barely scratches the surface the chapter is easy to miss.
The largest portion of the book is a chapter (over 100 pages long) on selected lunar landscapes. This is a great part of the book and North does a great job with it. It seems the only part of the book that isn't cut short due to space considerations, but here more could possibly been done.
Finally, there is a short, but good chapter on Transient Lunar Phenomena, the subject that North has been working on for some years.
In the end, the most annoying part of the book for me was North saying again and again and AGAIN that "much more could be said about this, but I'm already over the page allotment that my publisher set." In the end, due to this, "Observing the Moon" is largely an average book...that has two GREAT books struggling to get out of it.
Want a first book on the Moon? You can start with this, but it will only whet your appetite for more...which may not be a bad thing.
Mr. North, I look forward to you working on the next version of this book. However, for the next version, if possible, split it into the two great books that are struggling to get out of the book you've written: one book that is just Chapter 8 ("Selected Lunar Landscapes") and another book that is all the other chapters.