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Observation Books; Old Favourites and Essentials.


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During an observation session last week, I spent quite a bit of time getting confused by M78. I'm an old-fashioned observer and enjoy finding stuff using maps and knowledge of the night sky rather than electronics, but the downside of that is you can sometimes find yourself wondering if you're in the right part of the sky. Something the 'go-to' gang don't have to worry about.
Anyway, I'm telling you this because once again, an old book which I've used many, many, times came to the rescue. The book is The Cambridge Deep Sky Album by newton/Teece. I bloody love this book and have used it again and again and only last week it came through again and solved my M78 problem. Please excuse this picture of my tatty, stained and dew-warped copy.

 

01.jpg


It was published in 1983, and its great strength is it features 'homemade' photographs of Messier and NGC deep-sky objects, using the tech of the time, which is obviously less impressive than now. But that is actually the strength of the book, because the images are pretty much mirror what you see through the eyepiece. To give you an example, if you google M78 you get some stunning images....

 

00.jpg

 

Lovely shot, but it wasn't what I saw. In my observations notes and sketches, I'd written a description of two stars, with what looked like nebulosity on one side of the two stars. 
I looked on Stellarium and M78 didn't appear to be what I saw either. When I looked in my Cambridge Deep Sky Atlas later, I saw this. An exact replica of what I saw in the eyepice.


02.jpg

 

Brilliant! 

And to give you another example, anyone that's spent time looking at M81 and M82 through the eyepiece will appreciate this shot from the same book, as a really nice representation of what you can see through the scope if you're lucky to have dark skies and an overhead high Ursa Major.

03.jpg

I remember well when Turn Left at Orion came out. That was one of the first books I'd seen that told it like it is, and gave you a real idea of what you can see through an eyepiece. To me, the Cambridge Deep-Sky Album is an observer's classic book in the same way Turn Left at Orion is, (I still have my 1st edition of TLAO and dream of getting it signed by the author one day).
I see that you can get copies of the Cambridge Deep-Sky Album for a few quid with free postage on-line, (I'm not selling one, I just looked out of interest), and I'd encourage anyone here who uses a dob and is a 'maps not apps' observer like me to hunt one out, and for the price of a pint, you'll have a book a guarantee you'll return to.

 What are your favourite books on observing? I don't mean mapbooks, I mean books about observing, that you still use perhaps years after buying them.  Some of these books that some would view as outdated, are actually essential tools for the observer.

Edited by Swithin StCleeve
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That looks like a great book but I'm banned from buying any more astro books!

My favourite observing books are Burnham's celestial handbooks and O'Meara's observing books, I often look up whatever I've just observed in those books when I come in from a session.

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I have the Stephen James O'Meara books:  The Messier Objects, Hidden Treasures, and The Secret Deep which have fantastic observation notes and sketches that were made with a 4" instrument (however from very dark skies), apart from The Secret Deep which he switched to a 5" telescope.   While i can't replicate his skies I can get a little closer with using a 12" dob and the techniques he employs using different powers for observing different areas of an object.  Another I use extensively is the Interstellarum Deep Sky Guide.

Edited by Davesellars
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4 hours ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

During an observation session last week, I spent quite a bit of time getting confused by M78. I'm an old-fashioned observer and enjoy finding stuff using maps and knowledge of the night sky rather than electronics, but the downside of that is you can sometimes find yourself wondering if you're in the right part of the sky. Something the 'go-to' gang don't have to worry about.
Anyway, I'm telling you this because once again, an old book which I've used many, many, times came to the rescue. The book is The Cambridge Deep Sky Album by newton/Teece. I bloody love this book and have used it again and again and only last week it came through again and solved my M78 problem. Please excuse this picture of my tatty, stained and dew-warped copy.

 

01.jpg


It was published in 1983, and its great strength is it features 'homemade' photographs of Messier and NGC deep-sky objects, using the tech of the time, which is obviously less impressive than now. But that is actually the strength of the book, because the images are pretty much mirror what you see through the eyepiece. To give you an example, if you google M78 you get some stunning images....

 

00.jpg

 

Lovely shot, but it wasn't what I saw. In my observations notes and sketches, I'd written a description of two stars, with what looked like nebulosity on one side of the two stars. 
I looked on Stellarium and M78 didn't appear to be what I saw either. When I looked in my Cambridge Deep Sky Atlas later, I saw this. An exact replica of what I saw in the eyepice.


02.jpg

 

Brilliant! 

And to give you another example, anyone that's spent time looking at M81 and M82 through the eyepiece will appreciate this shot from the same book, as a really nice representation of what you can see through the scope if you're lucky to have dark skies and an overhead high Ursa Major.

03.jpg

I remember well when Turn Left at Orion came out. That was one of the first books I'd seen that told it like it is, and gave you a real idea of what you can see through an eyepiece. To me, the Cambridge Deep-Sky Album is an observer's classic book in the same way Turn Left at Orion is, (I still have my 1st edition of TLAO and dream of getting it signed by the author one day).
I see that you can get copies of the Cambridge Deep-Sky Album for a few quid with free postage on-line, (I'm not selling one, I just looked out of interest), and I'd encourage anyone here who uses a dob and is a 'maps not apps' observer like me to hunt one out, and for the price of a pint, you'll have a book a guarantee you'll return to.

 What are your favourite books on observing? I don't mean mapbooks, I mean books about observing, that you still use perhaps years after buying them.  Some of these books that some would view as outdated, are actually essential tools for the observer.

Well after your excellent explanation just gone and bought a copy for my own delights thanks for the heads up. 

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Thanks for the responses folks. I hope you like the book Fozzy, and I hope you got it cheap as chips. It doesn't include every Messier object, just most of them, but it does include a lot of NGC objects too.

I have three O'Meara books, and they are wonderful. The ones I don't have are the one on southern skies, which I'm not bothered about, but I also don't have Hidden Treasures, which is out of print. I don't want to buy a (quite pricey) copy of that in case it gets a second edition like The Messier Objects and Caldwell Objects books did. I'd love to know if they're planning one.

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My favourite is the Messier Album (Mallas & Kreimer). Old school book with observational descriptions and sketches made with a Unitron 4" refractor. 

Norton's and Burnham's are the other standouts for me.

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It was and still is The Messier Album. The photo of John Mallas twiddling with his 4" Unitron was a real motivating force, perhaps as much as any of his sketches. Even back in 1980 my heart was set on owning an excellent 4" refractor. I never really wanted anything else, and over the years larger scopes have usually left me cold and although impressive to look at are often an anticlimax for me. I'm still thrilling at what I can see through my 4". 😊

58a097ad5443b_2017-02-1217_18_56.jpg.ae9cff13ae91c1cc9d6fbd2709f2686a.jpg.e8378df885ec37736034edee58639c1e.jpg

Sky Atlas and Norton's Star Atlas, and now Pocket Sky Atlas are all vital to me as I avoid goto like the plague. But a truly inspirational book that fires my enthusiasm every time i read it is Leslie C. Peltier's autobiography Starlight Nights, The Adventures of a Stargazer. 

Below is a sketch I made of M78 a few years back using a 100mm refractor:

574920469_2022-02-1109_04_07.thumb.jpg.45347f2e8d3bfedc957ee3e2a0ee40ed.jpg

Edited by mikeDnight
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I bought the Messier Album (Mallas/Kreimer) only recently, and I agree, it's superb. The great thing about buying these older books second hand, is you don't feel so wary of taking them out observing. My Messier Album only cost a few quid, and I keep it in my observation case, along with the red light torches, other maps, notebooks and pens and pencils etc. This is something I wouldn't do with the O'Meara books, which cost me over £30 each and I'd worry about getting them wet or damaged. 
I've often thought of buying a second Messier Album lounge bookcase, so can pick them up so cheap. I think the Messier Album entries were originally serialised in the 70's in a US magazine (either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope?). 
Following recommendations on this thread, I've ordered a second hand copy of the first Burnhams Celestial Handbook, (it was £7.00). Looking forward to getting that one. 

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I miss the old Sky & Telescope magazine, which was by far the best of the astro mag's in its day. The modern incarnation is merely a shadow of the former. I think Mallas contributed to S&T as early as the 1950's right through to the 70's. So looking back I think S&T played a very big roll in fuelling my enthusiasm. I have a library full of past gem's, but which from a visual observers point of view are as valueable to me now as they would have been when they were new. Telescopic Work For Starlight Evenings, by W. F. Denning, is a case in point. It isn't scientifically accurate as our understanding has become clearer, but Denning's sections on Telescopes and observing are still inspired. 

Edited by mikeDnight
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3 hours ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

I bought the Messier Album (Mallas/Kreimer) only recently, and I agree, it's superb. The great thing about buying these older books second hand, is you don't feel so wary of taking them out observing. My Messier Album only cost a few quid, and I keep it in my observation case, along with the red light torches, other maps, notebooks and pens and pencils etc. This is something I wouldn't do with the O'Meara books, which cost me over £30 each and I'd worry about getting them wet or damaged. 
I've often thought of buying a second Messier Album lounge bookcase, so can pick them up so cheap. I think the Messier Album entries were originally serialised in the 70's in a US magazine (either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope?). 
Following recommendations on this thread, I've ordered a second hand copy of the first Burnhams Celestial Handbook, (it was £7.00). Looking forward to getting that one. 

When I got Burnham's books I then sought out the star atlases he referred to which were Norton's (I found the sixteenth edition which was I think the right one) which was easy to find and cheap as can be and I'm happy to use that in the field, but the other one was Antonin Becvars Atlas of the Heavens which took a long time to find (eventually I found one from abroad) and that stays in a plastic wallet and only comes out indoors to admire.

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One more book that I've loved for over thirty years (gulp!) is Kenneth Glyn Jones' Messiers Nebulae & Star Clusters. I got this in 1991, and it was the most expensive book I ever bought. I'm pretty sure it was over £30 even back then. I've seen in for a lot less since, second hand. So it's not one of those books that's become collectable. It's a very good companion to the O'Meara Messier book. The Jones book has much of the history of the objects, with quotes and sketches from early descriptions of the objects, by Messier and other notable astronomers from history. It's a superb reference book, and if anyone can find a copy cheap I'd snap it up. I must have fifty books in my 'observing' bookcase, and if I had to whittle it down to five, this would still be there without a doubt. Mine's rather shabby now.

 

01.jpg

 


02.jpg



 

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8 hours ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

I bought the Messier Album (Mallas/Kreimer) only recently, and I agree, it's superb. The great thing about buying these older books second hand, is you don't feel so wary of taking them out observing. My Messier Album only cost a few quid, and I keep it in my observation case, along with the red light torches, other maps, notebooks and pens and pencils etc. This is something I wouldn't do with the O'Meara books, which cost me over £30 each and I'd worry about getting them wet or damaged. 
I've often thought of buying a second Messier Album lounge bookcase, so can pick them up so cheap. I think the Messier Album entries were originally serialised in the 70's in a US magazine (either Astronomy or Sky and Telescope?). 
Following recommendations on this thread, I've ordered a second hand copy of the first Burnhams Celestial Handbook, (it was £7.00). Looking forward to getting that one. 

+1 just placed an order for the First Burnhams celestial handbook for 8 euros delivered  so cannot grumble. Don't you just love books. Strange as I cannot read a Novel get bored yet scientific stuff love it...

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On 10/02/2022 at 18:07, Paz said:

That looks like a great book but I'm banned from buying any more astro books!

My favourite observing books are Burnham's celestial handbooks and O'Meara's observing books, I often look up whatever I've just observed in those books when I come in from a session.

I have all three Burnham's and 3 of O'Meara's fabulous books. 

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11 hours ago, mikeDnight said:

It was and still is The Messier Album. The photo of John Mallas twiddling with his 4" Unitron was a real motivating force, perhaps as much as any of his sketches. Even back in 1980 my heart was set on owning an excellent 4" refractor. I never really wanted anything else, and over the years larger scopes have usually left me cold and although impressive to look at are often an anticlimax for me. I'm still thrilling at what I can see through my 4". 😊

58a097ad5443b_2017-02-1217_18_56.jpg.ae9cff13ae91c1cc9d6fbd2709f2686a.jpg.e8378df885ec37736034edee58639c1e.jpg

Sky Atlas and Norton's Star Atlas, and now Pocket Sky Atlas are all vital to me as I avoid goto like the plague. But a truly inspirational book that fires my enthusiasm every time i read it is Leslie C. Peltier's autobiography Starlight Nights, The Adventures of a Stargazer. 

Below is a sketch I made of M78 a few years back using a 100mm refractor:

574920469_2022-02-1109_04_07.thumb.jpg.45347f2e8d3bfedc957ee3e2a0ee40ed.jpg

Mike I have all 3 of those plus Cambridge double star atlas, Sissy Hass plus Webb society's and a few others on the floor stacked up as my book shelf collapsed my son is going fix it tomorrow. 

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50 minutes ago, fozzybear said:

 Strange as I cannot read a Novel get bored yet scientific stuff love it...

I'm exactly the same. Reading a novel is something I've always struggled with. My wife thinks there's something wrong with me, which I can't really argue with. I do have two works of fiction in my collection, H. G. Well's The Time Machine, and The First Men In The Moon. I love the latter as the British beat the Americans to the Moon by a long shot, and had much more of an adventure. I like to think it was probably true and just written in the guise of fiction! 🇬🇧:laugh2:

 

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10 hours ago, Swithin StCleeve said:

That's a lovely drawing. Next time I look at M78 I'll look for that extra 'bit' of nebula away from the main concentration. The stars lighting up the nebula is really noticeable in that drawing too.  

I hadn't paid too much attention to M78's accompanying glow of nebulosity until you mentioned it, I just sketched what I saw. I would have likely spent some time observing the field while under a blackout hood, so my dark adaption would have been quite good. The sketch was made using a prism diagonal, so mirrored compared to your reflector. Interestingly, I've just looked at O'Meara's Messier Objects and it does mention several such nebulous glows surrounding M78. (NGC's 2064, 2067, & 2071). I'm not sure which I managed to see but it will likely be easier in you reflector due to its greater light grasp.:icon_cyclops_ani:

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1 hour ago, mikeDnight said:

My wife thinks there's something wrong with me, which I can't really argue with. 

I know referring to the trimmed quote is a bit off topic, but Mike did post these very words.
My wife thinks the same about me also Mike, I am sure many others on here with significant others will feel the same.

On the books front, I love my O'Meara books and many others, enjoy them a lot.
But the real problem is I read threads like this and go off looking for more books, which indeed I have just done, thanks.

Books are great, and let's face it provide more astronomy than the sky often does!

Edited by Alan White
typos of course
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17 minutes ago, Alan White said:

I know referring to the trimmed quote is a bit off topic, but Mike did post these very words.
My wife thinks the same about me also Mike, I am sure many others on here with significant others will feel the same.

On the books front, I love my O'Meara books and many others, enjoy them a lot.
But the real problem is I read threads like this and go off looking for more books, which indeed I have just done, thanks.

Books are great, and let's face it provide more astronomy than the sky often does!

likewise

 

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