354 pages, 500 black & white illustrations, 2 colour illustrations
This book is meant for observers who see a deep-sky object - either by star-hopping or by using a Go-To telescope - but do not observe it in detail because they don't know what to look for. It provides photographic images of all the objects discussed...not just images, but images that look exactly like the visual view through the eyepiece of telescopes of various apertures. Visually, deep-sky objects almost always look quite unlike the usual CCD images published in astronomical guides. The human eye doesn't see color at such low light levels, and the contrast of extended objects (such as nebulae and galaxies) is completely different. The author lives in a less-than ideal location for visual observing, with the city of London only about twenty miles to the south. He uses this to advantage, and amateur astronomers will find this book invaluable because it shows them what they will actually see from a typical suburban location, not a rare view under perfect skies.
Preface.- Chapter 1: Observing Plans and Techniques.- Chapter 2: Accessories and "Pimping" Your 'Scope.- Chapter 3: Sketching.- Constellation Observing Lists and Photos.- Observation Records.- Recommended Texts.- Index of Objects.- Index.
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My love affair with the cosmos began, probably, when I stared, open-jawed, for two hours at the film Star Wars. Although I was only three at the time, I can remember subsequently drawing pictures of stars and planets and 'X-wings.' I quickly became a science fiction addict, watching re-runs of Star Trek and various other series. And so, I desperately wanted a way of seeing some of these objects for myself. My parents bought me a cheap (supermarket) 'scope when I was 11, which I then proceeded to set up in my sister's room (the only one with a southernly view) and stargaze through her window. Neither my father nor I could ever get it to focus properly. Of course, at the time, I had no knowledge or understanding of air currents, seeing, or indeed how to use a telescope or star chart. Nevertheless, even with the horrendous optics of this small telescope I could make out some craters on the Moon -- I was hooked! I decided to 'save up' for something better. After several birthdays I finally bought myself a reasonable 'scope -- a 9.25 inch Dobsonian, and spent many a clear night sitting on the garage roof (my sister wanted her room back!) gazing at the wonders of the universe. Soon after, university beckoned. I studied Chemistry, with a subsidiary in Astronomy. Although I very much enjoyed the latter, I was unable to continue as the university (at the time) did not offer Astronomy as a major degree. And so, my hobby took an enforced break, which was then extended by teacher training, getting married, and emigrating to east Africa. It was there, under the clear equatorial skies of Kenya, that my love of the cosmos was rekindled and my wife bought me a 5" Newtonian telescope for my birthday. I was astonished by the things I was able to see with such a small aperture. It just goes to show the difference a truly dark sky makes. Since then, I have been interested in visual astronomy and what deep sky objects really look like. Having subsequently returned to the UK and settled in South Bedfordshire, I developed a keen interest in sketching at the eyepiece and have spent many a nocturnal hour gazing through my 'scope, having told my wife I wouldn't be outside for 'too long.' Eventually, I began to wonder why there wasn't a book that showed photographs of the 'visual' image (i.e., what can be seen at the eyepiece). It seemed that descriptions of DSOs varied slightly from writer to writer and Hubble Space Telescope images told me very little about what I could actually see in my backyard. That was how this book was conceived. And so now, here it is...I trust that it will give you as much pleasure to read as it was for me to write. Enjoy and clear skies!