ASNSW Book Reviews

“THE PRACTICAL ASTRONOMERS DEEP SKY COMPANION”

Author: Jess K. Gilmour
Pages: 140
Reviewed by: 1: Peter Elliot
2: Albert Renaud

Peter Elliot's Review:
On opening this book it becomes immediately obvious to those of us who have recently come to this most frustrating yet satisfying of hobbies that Jess K. Gilmour has put a lot of thought into this book. I find one of the most frustrating things is you pour over your star maps, compile your observing program, set your equipment up and then spend most of the available time locating and trying to identify the object, not really knowing what it should look like.

For those of us who have given up on spending our available observing time attempting to track down objects and taken the plunge and gone: GO TO –“The Practical Astronomers Deep-Sky Companion” is certainly worth considering.

45 constellations, 841 illustrations, object catalogue numbers and description, individual finder chart for each object as well as FOV information for different telescope apertures and focal lengths.

Does this companion work in the field?? Yes it does.

Dust off the VISAC. September New Moon, dark country skies, 8/10 seeing. Three point alignment on the Sky Sensor. Scorpios and Sagittarius both nice and high, punch in the catalogue info, check the illustrations – GO TO and there it is and that’s what it looks like.

FANTASTIC!! No more doubt about what you are looking for, the illustrations match the view in the eyepiece.

This book really works. Is there a down side?? Yes, the usual problem: no southern constellations.

Would I purchase this book? Yes.


“THE PRACTICAL ASTRONOMERS DEEP SKY COMPANION”

Author: Jess K. Gilmour
Pages: 140
Reviewed by: 1: Peter Elliot
2: Albert Renaud

Albert Renaud's Review:
Allow me to preface this review by saying that I am a great admirer of Patrick Moore. I treasure his books, which continue to give me great enjoyment.

The book “The Practical Astronomers Deep-Sky Companion” by Jess K. Gilmour in Patrick Moore’s practical astronomy series is 140 pages long. It could be shorter without losing anything of value. For some reason which escapes me, the same in- formation is printed on every page for each object. This could have been printed once only, thereby saving a lot of space. It would also have been much more useful to state the equipment used and the settings for each object, but unfortunately this has not been done.

The introduction consists of basic facts which seem to appear in almost every publication with minor variations. This tends to leave the reader feeling that the book has been somewhat padded. The preface states that the contents of this book will “assist beginner, novice, intermediate and advanced amateur astronomy hobbyists” - a big ask. I doubt that the book fully achieves what the author set out to do, but it is a nice book with pretty pictures.

The information accompanying each picture however is just not sufficiently comprehensive for a book of this nature. For example, readers who are familiar with Harvard Pennington’s Messier Marathon Field Guide might wonder if it is not too much to expect some indication of what the area around the object looks like in a finder scope. This information might have been a better use of space than repeating the same data for each object.

The book is directed at readers in the northern hemisphere. Viewers in Australia will need to turn the pages upside down - but that is no real difficulty as most observers in the southern hemisphere are used to this sort of thing. On the other hand, the editing could have been a bit more careful. On page 110 the constellation Scorpius is said to be visible from 44 degrees north to 900 degrees south - well maybe.

The printing quality and the illustrations are superb – some of the best examples of their type. In an interesting practical comparison, the Orion Nebulae when observed in a ten inch Dobsonian or eight inch SCT under dark skies in excellent viewing conditions did not look anything like the superb illustration in this book. For me that is the fascination of astronomy. When you observe the object it is yours and only you will see it quite that way. Amateurs be warned - few will have the good fortune to see or photograph M31 as it appears on page 2. Again, it is difficult to understand how or why this happens - but the illustration of NGC 253 in Sculptor is obviously too perfect. Nature does not make things that look like this illustration.

We can forgive much because of the redeeming pictorial beauty of this book. For astrophotographers, classical or CCD the book is a must. For the amateur or the keen observer it is a valuable work which will give plenty of ideas for new objects to observe. In spite of some obvious shortcomings, it is a book I would thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in astronomy.