- Book Reviews -

      As an aid to the astronomical reader, we offer this section of book reviews. Each review is independently written, and expresses the opinions of its author (and not necessarily of the NAA or its officers). If you would like to submit a review, you may do so to library@naperastro.org. Our desire is to feature astronomy-related, non-fiction books which make worthwhile reading, so we encourage you to review books you would generally recommend. Critical comments, of course, are not out of place in a good review. You may also submit your reviews for books already listed here. We reserve the right to edit reviews as we see fit, and will post the reviewer's name (but no e-mail addresses, unless the reviewer specifically requests that we show theirs). Indeed, we will not post anonymous reviews.

Locating Astronomical Titles


Blind Watchers of the Sky - The People and Ideas That Shaped Our View of the Universe
by Rocky Kolb
Reviewed By: Drew Carhart
Publisher: Perseus
Copyright: 1997
NAA Library #: 475 & 491
ISBN: 020115496X
Amazon Link
The past 500 years has seen a tremendous change in our concepts as to the nature of our Universe. In this delightful book, the author takes us on an intimate tour of the history of modern astronomy, visiting the lives of the people who advanced our understanding of the cosmos; he also outlines past and current theory in succinct, easy to follow pictures.
 
But to me, the story is of more than just cosmology. Kolb illustrates the very nature of science itself; both what a powerful tool it is toward an understanding of nature, and how the reality it reveals will always be constrained by the human frailties of those who employ it. This book is a must-read for anyone on a search for a clearer image of the cosmos and our place in it.

Minding the Heavens - The Story of Our Discovery of the Milky Way
by Leila Belkora
Reviewed By: Drew Carhart
Publisher: Institute of Physics
Copyright: 2003
NAA Library #: 532
ISBN: 0750307307
Amazon Link
Before the invention of massive light pollution, every human who could see the stars knew the Milky Way; it stretched across their skies as a distinctive, obvious feature. It is interesting that, throughout the early history of the development of astronomy and right up to the last century, the nature of this prominent celestial element was given very little consideration by astronomers; they were more taken by moving bodies such as the planets.
 
This book presents the tale of how we developed our current view of the Milky Way as a tremendous galaxy in a universe populated with billions of others, told through the stories of the observers and theorists who took the bold, imaginative leaps required to paint such an unimaginable picture. The author presents a wealth of information and insight into the characters and their times, with a style which is appreciative of both human nature and the process of scientific discovery. I highly recommend it to those who have an interest in historical astronomy; and those of you who, like the individuals whose stories it tells, are trying to develop an understanding of the Universe.

Seeing in the Dark
by Timothy Ferris
Reviewed By: Mitch Gerdisch
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copyright: 2002
NAA Library #: 535
ISBN: 0684865793
Amazon Link
Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris is not the book to read to learn about telescopes - though it has some of that. And, it's not the book to read to learn astronomical facts - though it has some of that, also. Nor, is it the book to read to learn about cosmology - though it has some of that, too. Instead, Seeing in the Dark is the book to read if you want to celebrate amateur astronomy.
 
The main theme of the book is to describe how amateur astronomers working independently or with professional astronomers have contributed to our understanding of the universe. This information is presented by starting in the Solar System and working outwards to the depths of space. Ferris never gets too deep or complicated for the lay-person to understand. And, in those cases where the topic becomes a bit esoteric, Ferris is able to present the information in a clear and easily understood way. Furthermore, interleaved throughout the book are chapters containing interviews of amateur astronomers or Ferris' own personal anecdotes. These are wonderful vignettes into the world of amateur astronomy and they allow the reader to reflect on their own experiences. In all cases, Ferris' eloquent writing style keeps you coming back for more. I found the book to be reminiscent of Peltier's Starlight Nights in it's style and enthusiasm for the hobby. I think every amateur astronomer should have this book in their library.

Star Testing Astronomical Telescopes
by H.R. Suiter
Reviewed By: Drew Carhart
Publisher: Willmann-Bell
Copyright: 1997
NAA Library #: 488
ISBN: 0943396441
Amazon Link
Many amateur observers are not getting the performance they could out of their telescopes. The reason? The optics of their systems are out of alignment. Others wonder about the quality of their 'scopes, since the images their instruments produce don't seem to be as good as what they've seen through other people's. Any amateur can learn how to solve these problems, and this book is an excellent guide.
 
While only the most involved telescope enthusiast is likely to sit and read the book cover-to-cover, it is neatly laid our in sections devoted to identifying and correcting various problems, making it an excellent reference work for the 'scope owner. Profuse illustrations show you just what you can expect to see while troubleshooting a particular type of telescope, and step-by-step instructions take you through the collimation of three popular types of 'scope.

Turn Left at Orion - A hundred night sky objects to see in a small telescope - and how to find them
by Guy Consolmagno & Dan M. Davis
Reviewed By: Venkat Moncompu
Publisher: Cambridge
Copyright: 2000
NAA Library #: n.a.
ISBN: 0521781906
Amazon Link
A very good introductory book for observing tips on a wide array of deep sky objects, planets and the moon. The book is, as it says in the title, suited to small telescopes of about 3.5" aperture. For each object, classified by season of the year, the left page gives a schematic of the part the sky visible to the naked eye down to stars of mag. 3.5 and a finderscope (south is up) view with concise star-hopping instructions. The right hand page provides the view of the object through an eyepiece with a diagonal and a brief description on the object of discussion.
 
This book covers most of the objects visible in the mid-northern and mid-southern lattitudes with a propensity to the northern sky observers. Each object is rated by indicating in terms of icons whether they are visible either in binoculars or telescopes or both. The objects are also rated in terms of the type of sky conditions necessary to observe the object such as in light polluted or very dark skies with an indication of how nice the object is to observe.

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