This monumental work is the latest incarnation of a book that was first published some fifty years ago now, and is the first edition to appear in the last ten. In this time astronomy and planetary science have advanced enormously, so it is no surprise to discover that the text has been updated and even in some cases extensively added to and revamped, to take into account the discoveries of recent unmanned missions to the sun, moon and planets( as far as the end of 2010 ) , not to mention such recent cutting edge topics as extrasolar planets, dark matter and dark energy.
The range and depth of material collected together in this work can best be gauged by surveying some of the very generous helping of pages provided for inspection by Amazon, typically several for most chapters in the book. You will see there that in addition to extensive tables of numerical data, each chapter has a very readable text, divided into logical sections, and so can be read for entertainment and pleasure, as well as being consulted for that odd obscure fact that might take much longer to track down through, say, Google.
This book is quite simply the most extensive and comprehensive compendium of general astronomical data that I am aware of in book form, as well as being a damn good read too. Anyone with a serious interest in astronomy - and certainly any astronomical quiz buffs out there - should invest in a copy immediately.
No work is perfect, but in this case any recommendation for improvements will be little more than a quibble. One that I might suggest however is that in a future edition a couple of pages might be devoted to listing astronomical symbols and abbreviations; this is the only real omission that immediately occurs to me, and in light of the vast treasure trove of other information presented, I hesitate to mention it. As I said, only a quibble!
... if you need a book where you can find all the data you need on the solar system. In this book you'll also find some data on stars, nebulae, clusters, constallations and so on.
This book will certainly serve you well, if you have a somewhat nerd-ish interest in astronomy (like I do), or perhaps even if you are studying astronomy at the university.
Patrick Moore gives the amateur astronomer alot of knowledge about the solar system and the stars, but he doesn't give alot of detailed explanations of the physical phenomena of the universe. For instance he tells about the spectra of the lights of stars and that astronomers can deside from those, what the stars are composed of, but he doesn't get into the quantum physics behind it... which doesn't matter if you just need a data book, or if you find it interesting to expand your knowledge of the solarsystem and the night sky.
Beeing a complete astro-nerd, I'd have to give this book 5 stars!
The book is written in a language anyone with an interest in astronomy or physics should be able to understand. I'm from Denmark, so my native toungue isn't even english, and I've read the whole 500+ pages without any problems. The last pages of the book is a glossary. It makes the reeding much smoother, that he doesn't explain each and every technical term all the way through the book!
This is without doubt a fantastic reference book for all astronomers and enthusiasts - all ages and levels of expertise. This is the 2nd edition published in February 2011. The forerunners being the Guinness Book of Astronomy (first published in 1978/79) and the Story of Astronomy (first published in 1970).
This edition is detailed with maps and diagrams, tables and charts. I am pleased with the extended section on astronomers and stellar astronomy. There is an error on page 235 - There is reference made to Uranus's influence on the discovery of Neptune. Uranus was discovered in 1781 not 1782 as quoted. (I visited Patrick on 7 Feb 2011 when the book had actually arrived in the post that day. I turned to the entry on Neptune and under the heading of 'Discovery' I spotted the error - Patrick was in good humour and said "I'm sure there are others; we shall see"). My only disappointment about this book is that the data book has no colour photographs.
Apart from all that, the book deserves 5 stars.
This was probably Patrick's last serious book although I believe "Cosmic Tourist" may have come after. Certainly "The Sky At Night: Questions and Answers" was due to be published around the same time - both books co-written with Dr Brian May and Dr Chris North respectively.
Book has arrived today, just two days after ordering.
I know I'm going to love this book for all the data and tables but I'm ever so slightly disappointed at the maps and pictures. Most of them at first glance through seem unreadable. This is probably due to the cramming of one map to half a page. So, although you can see the map fairly clearly, say for example of the moon and it's craters, it is totally impossible to read 95% of the craters names due to the size of the font (which is beyond an ants footprint)
It is a large book so there's plenty of space for closer maps. Patricks own hand drawn image of the moon is spread over two pages, but even this is unreadable really.
So, if you want data then this is most definitely the book for you. If you want that and maps, then either look elsewhere for a combined book ( I couldn't find one) or get a separate book that does contain better maps and combine the two together.