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Astronomy Hacks: Tips and Tools for Observing the Night Sky Paperback – June 1, 2005

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Frequently Bought Together

Astronomy Hacks: Tips and Tools for Observing the Night Sky + Turn Left at Orion: Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope - and How to Find Them + NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596100604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596100605
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book to any amateur astronomer.
Hiram Little
Astronomy hacks combines an excellent overview of astronomy and details on how to improve your equipment and observations with insider tips.
Amazon Customer
If you are getting started in amateur astronomy, buy this book first.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 109 people found the following review helpful By William A. Nolan VINE VOICE on January 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have been doing Astronomy since I got my first scope (Edmund Scientific 3" reflector) in 1954, and I teach Astronomy at the college here. I still found a lot of useful tips and tricks in this book. The reason for my rating is the author's complete bias toward Dobsonian scopes (and Orion). Plus, they don't like computerized scopes at all. In a field like Astronomy, where the technology is flying forward, it is all too easy for old-timers to get caught up in the "always been good enough for me" syndrome. Just because I learned to find that elusive object by star hopping doesn't mean everyone should. I was particularly struck by their comparison of go-to scopes with auto transmissions in cars. It was obvious they prefer stick shifts as well as Dobsonian scopes. If the Schmidt and Mak scopes were so bad, why are so many experienced astronomers buying them? Same with goto. They are very popular for a reason. If you can ignore the glaring bias, you will get a lot of useful info from this book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lewellen on December 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have been all over the Internet and have perused just about every bookstore in the Dallas area searching for books and information on amateur astronomy. I was very fortunate to make this book one of my first purchases. The authors are very experienced and passionate amateur astronomers and they provide a wealth of valuable information from purchasing telescopes and equipment all the way through observation techniques and astronomical concepts. This book is a very recent publication and is filled with ideas or "hacks" that center around the very latest technology and equipment that is available in the field of amateur astronomy. The main philosophy around the book is that one does not have to spend thousands of dollars on telescopes, mounts, lens', etc in order to enjoy the hobby at a very high level. This was something that was very important to me since I do not have a very large budget for purchasing my first serious amateur telescope.

It is also worth mentioning that the authors are very biased torwards using Newtonian Reflector telescopes with Dobsonian style mounts, however they do cover all of the telescope types and thier respective advantages, disadvantages, etc.

Overall, this book is a must purchase for anyone who is interested in amateur astronomy and who is looking for that first step. There is information in this book that will also appeal to the more experienced telescope enthusiasts, especially where the telescope modifications are concerned. Amateur Astronomy can get quite expensive and this book will certainly save many beginners from needlessly wasting money on telescopes and equipment!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Macak on July 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Review summary: You definitely want this book if you are a rank beginner at star gazing and are _not_ interested in purchasing or using a computerized "go-to" telescope. Get this book now! If you don't fit this category, read on, as this book may still appeal to you.

"Astronomy Hacks" is an excellent introductory book for "hands-on" amateur star gazers, but there are some caveats of which the potential reader should be aware.

Oriented towards the neophyte (of the 65 hacks, 41 are classified as having a "beginner" level of complexity and only 4 as "expert"), this book provides a wealth of valuable tips and techniques that will get a beginning star gazer up to speed with a minimum of fuss. Add some at-the-eyepiece experience, and the new kid on the block will be expeditiously transformed into an intermediate observer.

The equipment-specific hacks in this book are heavily weighted towards the Dobsonian reflector type of telescope. Although the authors readily admit their bias towards this type of telescope, this bias limits the appeal of "Astronomy Hacks." Thus, if your potential interest in star gazing includes hunting down the objects you wish to view by referring to star charts and moving your scope from one field of view to the next until the desired object is found, and then, as you observe the object, manually nudging the scope continuously in order to keep the object in the field of view, then "Astronomy Hacks" is for you.

However, if you think you'd rather use a computerized scope that can locate an object you wish to view and then automatically track that object as you observe through the eyepiece, then most of the telescope-specific hacks in this book will not be applicable to your observing equipment.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jack D. Herrington on July 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. Where other Astronomy books focus exclusively on the hardware, or on the heavens, this book covers a wider range of topics. From telescope tricks, to how to meet up with astronomy buffs, to what to drink (or not drink) on your viewing nights. While the other books are helpful to teach the theory, this book is the glue that binds the night sky theory with the telescope in the back of the car on a mountain side reality.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ivan W. Ong on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a fun read. The authors are clearly passionate about their hobby and write with a style that is engaging, unpretentious and clear. This book is targeted towards beginners who are new to the hobby. I especially enjoyed the front chapters dealing with topics such as observing site etiquette, what to wear and what to bring. The beginner will certainly benefit from reading this and learn not to commit the faux pas of driving up to a star party with headlights blazing. There is also useful and clear introductory information such as finding constellations, star hopping, reading star atlases and observing tips and skills. The authors are clearly very skewed towards Dobsonians and this book reflects this bent. A bulk of the book is devoted to these instruments such as cleaning the mirror, center spotting a mirror, collimation and improving the Dob. This is great if you have one but not too great if you have chosen to start out with an equatorially mounted telescope or a SCT. There is consequently no information on polar alignment and the more rigorous drift alignment. There is also scant/no information on attainable basic astrophotography techniques that are accessible to an amateur with a tracking mount, such as planetary webcaming and guided deep sky photography with a short focal length scope or a mounted 35mm camera. I would encourage those with these pursuits in mind to consider other options besides a Dob before making a choice. All in all, this is a useful book and a welcomed addition to bookstore shelves. There are so many over-colorful over-graphic introductory astronomy books that are of little value to the serious beginner, and thus this book is entirely relevant.
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