ASNSW Book Reviews

“OBSERVING VARIABLE STARS”

Author: Gerry A. Good
Reviewed by: Adrian Saw

This book tackles a very difficult subject - introducing beginners to Variable Stars and encouraging observation of variables.

If this is the aim of the book then I believe it has been put together back to front. The first two thirds of the book adopts a “reference” style by cataloging descriptions of the vast majority of variable stars and their classes. All this would be very difficult for the newcomer to comprehend - in fact I found it laborious and hard-going. Putting that aside however, the last one third of the book does a very good job of introducing and guiding the beginner into the observation of variables.

The main emphasis of the book is on visual observing of stars, however Good also briefly covers CCD and photoelectric photometry. On the other hand, he does not describe the estimation of variable star brightness levels by visual comparison of photographs.

The odd error by the author has not been picked up in the proof reading. For instance, the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is described as a plot of colour against temperature instead of luminosity against temperature.

Good gives a creditable account of the observing techniques preferred by the various variable star associations. The inclusion of his own observing anecdotes adds interest and improves the readability of the book.

The only other fault in my opinion is that the author has included very little of the history of variable star observing and did not mention the works of many of the early observers.

The author has made a reasonable effort with a very difficult and complex subject and the book represents one of the better works on the introduction to variable stars. The newcomer would also be advised to check out the information available on the websites of the major Variable Star Organisations.

In conclusion, this is a book for your library. I do suggest however, that you read the last 100 pages first and then use the rest of the book for reference.