Why use the traditional approach to study the stars when you can turn computers, handheld devices, and telescopes into out-of-this-world stargazing tools? Whether you're a first timer or an advanced hobbyist, you'll find Astronomy Hacks both useful and fun. From upgrading your optical finder to photographing stars, this book is the perfect cosmic companion.This handy field guide covers the basics of observing, and what you need to know about tweaking, tuning, adjusting, and tricking out a 'scope. Expect priceless tips and tools for using a Dobsonian Telescope, the large-aperture telescope you can inexpensively build in your garage. Get advice on protocols involved with using electronics including in dark places without ruining the party.Astronomy Hacks begins the space exploration by getting you set up with the right equipment for observing and admiring the stars in an urban setting. Along for the trip are first rate tips for making most of observations. The hacks show you how to:
Dark-Adapt Your Notebook Computer
Choose the Best Binocular
Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
Upgrade Your Optical Finder
Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment
The O'Reilly Hacks series has reclaimed the term "hacking" to mean innovating, unearthing, and creating shortcuts, gizmos, and gears. With these hacks, you don't dream it-you do it--and Astronomy Hacks brings space dreams to life. The book is essential for anyone who wants to get the most out of an evening under the stars and have memorable celestial adventures.
Chapter 1 Getting Started
Don’t Give Up
Join an Astronomy Club
Don’t Violate Observing Site Etiquette
Measure Your Entrance Pupil Size
Choose the Best Binocular
Choose the Best General-Purpose Telescope
Equip Yourself for Urban Observing
Chapter 2 Observing Hacks
See in the Dark
Protect Your Night Vision from Local Lights
Describe the Brightness of an Object
Identify Stars by Name
Identify Stars by Catalog Designations
Know Your Constellations
Understand Celestial Coordinate Systems
Print Custom Charts
Keep Your Charts at the Eyepiece
Locate Objects Geometrically
Learn to Star Hop
Learn to See DSOs
Observe Shallow-Space Objects
Slow Down, You Move Too Fast, You’ve Got to Make the Evening Last
Learn Urban Observing Skills
Maintain an Observing Notebook
Develop an Organized Logging System
Plan and Prepare for a Messier Marathon
Run a Messier Marathon
Photograph the Stars with Basic Equipment
Discover and Name a New Planet
Chapter 3 Scope Hacks
Center-Spot Your Mirror
Clean Your Primary Mirror
Eliminate Diffraction Spikes and Increase Contrast
Build a Film Can Collimating Tool
Tune Your Newtonian Reflector for Maximum Performance
Collimate Your Primary Mirror Quickly and Accurately
Star-Collimate Your Scope
Counterweight a Dobsonian Scope
Improve Dobsonian Motions with Milk Jug Washers
Upgrade Your Dobsonian Bearings
Chapter 4 Accessory Hacks
Dark Adapt Your Notebook Computer
Dark Adapt Your Vehicle
Use a Barlow
Determine Actual Barlow Magnification
See More of the Sky
Optimize Your Eyepiece Collection
Chart Your Eyepiece Characteristics
View Dim Objects in the Same Field as a Very Bright Object
Clean Your Eyepieces and Lenses Safely
Install a Unit-Power Finder
Upgrade Your Optical Finder
Align Your Finder
Determine Your Optical Finder’s Field of View
Determine Your True Field of View
Enhance Lunar and Planetary Contrast and Detail
Enhance Nebular Contrast and Detail
Please Be Seated
Stash Your Gear in a Photographer’s Vest or Fanny Pack
Robert Bruce Thompson is a coauthor of O'Reilly's Building the Perfect PC and PC Hardware in a Nutshell. A born geek, he built his first computer in 1976 with 256 bytes of memory, toggle switches, and no operating system. Since then, he has bought, built, upgraded, and repaired hundreds of PCs for himself, employers, customers, friends, and clients. Robert spends most clear, moonless nights outdoors with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector telescope, hunting down faint fuzzies, and is currently designing a larger truss-tube Dobsonian (computerized, of course) that he plans to build.
Barbara Fritchman Thompson, the coauthor of Building the Perfect PC and PC Hardware in a Nutshell, worked for 20 years as a librarian before starting her own home-based consulting practice, Research Solutions. She's also a researcher for the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge, & Rice, PLLC. During her leisure hours, Barbara reads, works out, plays golf, and, like Robert, is an avid amateur astronomer.
Our look is the result of reader comments, our own experimentation, and feedback from distribution channels. Distinctive covers complement our distinctive approach to technical topics, breathing personality and life into potentially dry subjects.The tool on the cover of Astronomy Hacks is a refractor telescope. Although magnifying glasses and burning glasses had been known since classical times, and eyeglasses were in use by 1300, it was not until the final decade of the 16th century that instrument makers first created optical instruments for scientific exploration.The first simple microscopes were built by brothers Zacharias and Hans Janssen, about 1595. Although the telescope seems a logical follow-on to the microscope, no evidence exists that any telescope was built prior to 1608. The invention of the telescope is sometimes credited to Zacharias Janssen or James Metius, but evidence suggests that spectacle maker Hans Lippershey was the first to construct a telescope.One day, while holding a spectacle lens in either hand, Lippershey happened to view a nearby church steeple through both lenses and was astonished to see that it appeared larger than before. He mounted the lenses in a tube to adjust and preserve their spacing, and thereby invented the refractor telescope.Lippershey applied to the Dutch government for a patent, which was denied because he was unable to prove that he was the sole inventor. The government officials, however, recognized the value of Lippershey's invention. They bought his original telescope for 90 florins and paid Lippershey well to produce additional telescopes for them.Opticians and instrument makers throughout Holland were soon producing telescopes, and within a year telescopes were being made throughout Europe. In 1609, Galileo Galilei, after reading a description of the telescope, constructed his own instrument and turned it to the heavens. Galileo first used his telescope to discover the moons of Jupiter, sunspots, the phases of Venus, and the craters and valleys on the Lunar surface. With his telescope, Galileo proved the Copernican heliocentric theory by establishing that the apparent motion of Jupiter's four moons could be explained only if those moons orbited Jupiter, and that the phases of Venus established that Venus must be orbiting the Sun.In 1671, Isaac Newton reinvented the second major type of telescope, the reflector, by using mirrors rather than lenses to collect and focus light. Since the 17th century, the craft of telescope making has been refined continually. We now have telescopes that enable us to see objects billions of light years away to the edge of our universe. There are also telescopes that capture energy such as radio wave emissions, gamma rays, and x-rays. But the refractor telescope, refined but essentially unchanged since the days of Lippershey and Galileo, remains a popular and useful scientific instrument.Marlowe Shaeffer was the production editor and proofreader for Astronomy Hacks . Darren Kelly and Claire Cloutier provided quality control. John Bickelhaupt wrote the index.Mike Kohnke designed the cover of this book, based on a series design by Edie Freedman. The cover image is an original photograph provided by Al Nagler. The background image is from Getty Images. Karen Montgomery produced the cover layout with Adobe InDesign CS using Adobe's Helvetica Neue and ITC Garamond fonts.David Futato designed the interior layout. This book was converted by Keith Fahlgren to FrameMaker 5.5.6 with a format conversion tool created by Erik Ray, Jason McIntosh, Neil Walls, and Mike Sierra that uses Perl and XML technologies. The text font is Linotype Birka; the heading font is Adobe Helvetica Neue Condensed; and the code font is LucasFont's TheSans Mono Condensed. The illustrations that appear in the book were produced by Robert Romano, Jessamyn Read, and Lesley Borash using Macromedia FreeHand MX and Adobe Photoshop CS. This colophon was written by Lydia Onofrei and Robert Bruce Thompson.
In this hectic world of rushing around, some of us are lucky enough to get outside and enjoy the night sky from time to time. This book will help you get the most out of your time practicing amateur astronomy. It's a collection of advice, short essays, tips and tricks that will help you get up to speed without many of the frustrations typically encountered when learning this hobby.
The authors jump right in with invaluable tips that every amateur astronomer should know. The first chapter is loaded with goodies that will help you get geared up and understand basic safety, observing site etiquette, preparation, and offers advice on choosing the right equipment.
From there, you are taken into the field with a heap of great observing hacks. Starting with the basics like how to keep your night vision, you'll learn how to describe the brightness of an object, identify stars by name and understanding the various celestial coordinate systems. Fundamentals like learning to locate objects geometrically, star hopping, and learning to see both deep & shallow space objects are also covered here.
Urban observing skills, organized logging, and how to prepare for and run a Messier Marathon are included as well. The book closes with chapters covering scope and accessory hacks like collimation, tricking out your Dobsonian, aligning and upgrading your finder scope, and help on choosing planetarium software for your computer.
The hacks vary in length from quick single-pagers up to some very thorough ten-plus page hacks. The book contains many black & white photographs that compliment the text. When you decide it's time to clean your primary mirror for example, several photos of the multi-step process help guide you through. Icons accompany each hack, indicating the relative complexity of the hack, from beginner to expert. Each hack is numbered (from 1 to 65) and cross references are shown where related hacks are mentioned.
Other reviews of this book mention the authors' bias towards Dobsonian scopes. The authors don't have blinders on; they thoroughly describe many types of telescopes (and binoculars) and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. They have spent a huge amount of time in the field and they are simply reporting their observations when they say "If you attend a large star party, you'll probably see more Dobs than all other types of scopes combined." The reason so many people buy them is simple: Dobs offer arguably the best bang for the buck. If you're a beginner, you'll do well to learn the basics of star hopping and celestial navigation without relying on the crutch of a go-to scope. Have the batteries in your GPS ever died when you were in an unfamiliar area? Good thing you know how to read a map. ;)
Astronomy Hacks is the second book I've read by the dynamic duo of Robert & Barbara Thompson. Their book Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders was an excellent read and continues to be a great resource. I highly recommend both of these books.
I've always had an interest in astronomy but have never really indulged myself. Recently my young son has become interested in the stars and wanted to purchase a telescope. So when I came across Astronomy Hacks I was especially interested. I found the book to be very helpful. We did purchase a telescope and found the author's advice quite useful.
The book's contents are simple enough to help satisfy my son's budding interest and at the same time it is advanced enough to keep me interested. It is full of useful "hacks" and will certainly be great resource for lots of folks. I purchased additional copies as gifts for nephews and nieces.
My original experience and review of the book noted above has not changed after two years. I still find it useful. It is now dog eared and battered from use.
I have also found that Thompson's other astronomy book, Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders: From Novice to Master Observer, a great companion volume.
If you are a backyard astronomer, you owe yourself this book.
Quite a nice book for newcomers as for advanced observers
By Andre Cajolais
Comments about oreilly Astronomy Hacks:
I'm an amateur astronomer for 20 years plus and I must say that I learned a lot from Astronomy Hacks. The Thompson are passionate and experienced observers, that's obvious and very nice writers. This book is fun to read, informative for the newcomer, and thoughtful for the more advanced observer.
Beginners will find informative tips and tricks about observing etiquette, they'll learn to recognize the constellations, how to star hop, even get tips on choosing the best star atlas for them. And of course, they'll get many useful observing tips.
The more advanced observer will find interesting hacks on how to improve the performance and accuracy of their scope, how to plan a rewarding observing session, and selecting equipment.
I particularly enjoy thoses hacks on the software you can use to help you get the most of your observing time, on selecting the best eyepieces for your equipment, observing strategies, and nice information on the famous Messier marathon.
All in all, 65 chapters packed with hacks that will be usefull to any amateur from beginning to advanced astronomer. Give it a look, you'll be surprised. A useful book and a very nice addition to you astronomy bookshelves.
This is a good book to read if you are starting out in astronomy and are beginning to purchase your equipment. It will lead you down the correct path to make wise decisions, just keep in mind that there is many other brand name equipment to choose from other than what is stated in the book. They do mention this after giving a brand name preference, do your homework. The tips are vary helpful and are almost required when purchasing an Asian dob. I like how the book explains how to avoid inferior equipment and give a wiser choice. This book will enhance the novice's enjoyment of amateur astronomy.
This book covers a wide range of subjects related to Astronomy. It is well written and thought out. It is a must have for any newbie and even experienced astronomers will benefit from it too. I was one of those people who spent a lot of money on a telescope and after a few uses let it sit for over a year in a corner collecting dust out of discouragement from not seeing the spectacular DSO's found on most web sites. This book explains what you can expect to see along with techniques to see them. It has helped me locate objects I have never been able to find before and given me information on care of my telescope. It has given me the comfort and confidence to do maintenance on my telescope I was too afraid to do out of my own lack of knowledge. It has re-sparked my interest in the hobby and I found I am using my 8" DOB more and more.
In a word, wow. I like to actually read all of a book before making comments, and there is a lot of content in this book, so it took me a while to get all the way through it. As someone with a very minimal background and marginal interest in astronomy, I would feel very comfortable using this as my primary guide if I was going to start observing at most any level; I had no trouble following the text, even the technical information and tables looked like I would be able to understand and use them if I had the need to do so. Well written. This strikes me as an essential resource for any neophyte, one that includes useful information for experienced folks as well.