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The Casual Sky Observer's Guide (Springer 2012)

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#1 Stellarfire

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:53 AM

Does anyone have the new book The Casual Sky Observer's Guide - Stargazing with Binoculars and Small Telescopes, by Rony De Laet, Springer 2012?

I would be interested in your opinions, if this is a must-have publication to the giant-binocular observers amongst us, and if it is worth its price tag ($39.95 on amazon.com).

Thanks in advance!

Stephan

#2 BobinKy

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 08:28 AM

Here is Rony's website My Binocular Sketches. The largest binocular he uses is 15x70. In some circles this is a giant binocular. Others, however, reserve the label giant binoculars for something like 25x100.

Regarding Rony's book. Yes, it is definitely worth the price. Purchase it as soon as possible.

#3 Stellarfire

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 09:20 AM

Bob, thanks for the input. Yes, I know, the term giant binocular is subjected to different factors. Personally, I think binoculars with apertures starting at 70mm fit well this designation.

After checking your link and reading again Springer's description (and in particular checking their helpful "Read online" viewer on the description page), I just ordered that book.

I already have some nice bino books, but I think this one should make another really nice companion to my bino sessions with my good old 10x40 Zeiss Jena (Eastern Germany/DDR-made), and as well a 82mm Kowa Highlander Fluorite (21x/32x/50x).


Stephan

#4 blb

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 10:44 AM

It would really be great to have a report about the book here. I look forward to hearing what you think about it. I too hope it is a good book.

#5 amicus sidera

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 03:58 PM

Well, I took a look at the sample page (regarding the Milky Way), and quite frankly see little in the way of an observing guide in its pages, but obvious aspirations towards a textbook, in my opinion.

Think I'll pass on this one, especially at the suggested price.

#6 auriga

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 11:26 PM

This sounds like it is oriented to beginners.

For a superb book on binocular and rich field telescope observing, try Sky Vistas, by Craig Crossen and Gerald Rhemann, published by Springer, Wein and New York. This is great for all levels of observers, wonderful large color photos by Rhemann, and the inspiring writing of Craig Crossen, the best astronomy writer since Burnham.

Bill Meyers

#7 BobinKy

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 12:28 AM

Stellarfire...

I already have some nice bino books, but I think this one should make another really nice companion to my bino sessions with my good old 10x40 Zeiss Jena (Eastern Germany/DDR-made), and as well a 82mm Kowa Highlander Fluorite.



Stephan...

Do you ever receive visitors to take a peek at the peaks with your 82mm Kowa Highlander Flourite? :jump: :jump: :jump:

I agree that Rony's book will make a nice addition to your bino book collection.

#8 BobinKy

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 12:41 AM

Rony is a regular here at Cloudy Nights. You can usually catch him posting his binocular sketches in the CN Astrophotography and Sketching forum, as well as the CN Binoculars forum.

I just sent him a personal invitation to join the discussion about his book.

#9 Stellarfire

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:52 AM

@ blb,
Ok


@ amicus sidera,
Yes, but whilst there are more detailed guides out there, I think the compact "Casual Sky Observer's Guide" makes a nice companion to have ready in the car, or to carry with the bicycle, when heading out for some nightly nearby bino sessions.


@ Bill Meyers,
100% agree. "Sky Vistas" is DA BOMB! I already have it, along with some other bino guy must-haves like:

"Binocular Astronomy" by Crossen/Tirion
"Binocular Highlights" by Seronik
"Celestial Sampler" by French
"Cosmic Challenge" by Harrington
"Deep-Sky Wonders" by French
"Objects in the Heavens" by Birren
"Stargazing with Binoculars" by Scagell/Frydmann, and
"Turn Left at Orion" by Consolmagno/Davis.

At this point, let me also recommend the outstanding spiral-bound and laminated "Deep-Sky Reiseatlas" ("Deep-Sky Travelling Atlas"), 3rd edition, by Feiler/Noack, published by the German Oculum-Verlag. At 29,90 Euros one of the best maps money can buy, do not miss out that one, folks!


@ Bob,
I show them only the 10x40 Zeiss... ;)
And, of course, it would be nice to read Ronys comments about his book here in this thread.


Stephan

#10 rodelaet

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 05:50 PM

Hello Stephan and Bob,

Thank you for inviting me in this thread.

The book is mainly intended for casual observers, who have not a lot of free time to spend under the stars. And sometimes we all fit into that category, don't we. On such occasions, a small handheld binocular is easier to use than a giant one. Of course, the objects that are described in the book are interesting to be observed with giant binoculars and small telescopes too.

There are multiple books about observing with binoculars. In order to make a difference with other books, I focused on the following key points. For each of the objects that are described in the book, I wanted the reader to know 1) what object is interesting, 2) how to find it, 3) how it will look like in the eyepiece, 4) what he is looking at, and 5) where it is located in the universe.
To accomplish these goals I have included finder charts, lifelike full wide-field eyepiece sketches (instead of misleading photographs) and galaxy views which show where the object is located in relation with our position in the Milky way. The combination of all these goals in a single observer's guide is in my opinion unique.
From the reactions that I received from the readers, I can say that the book is not only useful for novice observers, but also for experienced ones who gained new insights in the structure of our galaxy.

I hope that these few words are of help to you. :)

Clear skies,

#11 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 09:03 PM

Stephan said:

I would be interested in your opinions, if this is a must-have publication to the giant-binocular observers amongst us, and if it is worth its price tag ($39.95 on amazon.com).


Hi Stephan,

There are so few binocular books out here for us I tend to feel most of the bino books are must-have books. :)

I have not read the book cover to cover but I have used it out in the driveway with my SkyMaster 15x70s on an Orion Pmount and find it to be a very good guide book. I think it is more in line with Gary Seronik's Binocular Highlights than a textbook.

The book is listed in the series, Astronomer’s Pocket Field Guide, and I own a couple of books in that series:

The Six-Inch Lunar Atlas: A Pocket Field Guide by Don Spain

Moonwalk with Your Eyes: A Pocket Field Guide by Tammy Plotner

Let's not forget the full title is "The Casual Sky Observer’s Guide: Stargazing with Binoculars and Small Telescopes". There are chapters on navigating the sky, equipment, property of stars and other general information about observing.

Each chapter starts out with a pictorial overview of just where the monthly objects are situated in our Galaxy with a colorful map. It reminds me of an application like Where is M13? view.

The book breaks down the sky in monthly sections (Jan. - Dec.) averaging about 7 - 8 objects per month. You are treated to the gamut of DSOs along with double stars, and a couple of variable stars through the year. There are about 73 sketches unless I miscounted them. Rony tells how to find the object in an easy conversational tone, how far away it may be from us, and how it got its name if it has a name other than M something or NGC something. When I was outside with the book it reminded me a bit like a DSO or double star report from CN in a way.

The finder maps remind me, vaguely, of the maps used in "Binocular Highlights", blue background, but Rony uses larger fonts for star names and IDs, yellow fonts for objects (large fonts again), and red/orange finder circles. Thank you!

Maybe I should have started this mini review with this statement, "I am a wannabe sketcher". Hey, Rony's sketches are worth the price of the book to me. :) Now sometimes they are so subtle you may need to dim the lights to see how delicate they are. I'm not saying the images are bad, but some are delicate like the Crab, M1, in Fig. 14.7. However, the sketch of the Pleiades with 15x70s will knock your socks off!

To wrap things up, this is not a Crossen Binocular Astronomy or Stephen O'Meara Observing the Night Sky with Binoculars book. IMHO, no matter what your skill level or the instrument you decide to use with this guide, I'm thinking of my Tasco 60mm now, you will be pleased with Rony's guidance beside you and his sketches to confirm the target when you get there.

Please do yourself a favor and check Amazon's "Look Inside" to view the book for its features, maps, chapters etc., it is much better than Springer's PDFs.

peace & clear skies,

#12 rodelaet

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Posted 26 August 2012 - 01:58 PM

Hi Richard,

Can an author be more pleased then by such a review by one of his readers, I don't think so. I thank you for the kind words you wrote about this book, Richard.
You are right, the sketches are sometimes very subtle. I tried to maintain a balance between subtlety and visibility. It is not always easy to choose in what direction to go. Bear in mind that I had my sketches developed for displaying on a computer monitor. I had to prepare them all over again for print, without the printer profiles of the printing office. Knowing that I would not see a proof on paper of the book, I only got one shot, I adapted and printed my sketches at home until I was satisfied with the results. It wasn't until the first book rolled out of the machines that I could see the outcome of my corrections. Given the fact that I worked blindfolded, I was fairly satisfied with the printing quality at Springer. :)
The galaxy-views are indeed based on the 3D Atlas 'Where is M13' of Bill Tschumy. Bill was so kind to give permission to use the images generated by his application. Unfortunately the number of illustrations would grow too large then (Springer restrictions). For each object, a front view and a top view is displayed. By creating a bird's view of our Galaxy, I could reduce the number of illustrations by half. :idea:

Clear skies,

#13 Stellarfire

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 09:07 AM

Hi Richard and Rony,

I got today delivered the book as ordered from Amazon.de.
After some first reading, there are two findings, a good and a bad one.

First the good: Richard, I fully second your opinion, Rony's work is great stuff! And I really like that his descriptions are based on observations with 8x56, 10x50 and 15x70 binoculars, making this guide somewhat more universal than the otherwise outstanding "Binocular Highlights" by Gary Seronik. The compact "Casual Sky Observer's Guide" makes a fine addition to the books as already listed above in my previous post.

The bad: Springer messed it up. The printing quality is nothing else than a nightmare. NO bad-mouthing here. Apparently, this book, at least the copy as delivered to me, was printed by the print-on-demand (POD) process. POD was already a matter of discussions here in this forum, see this POD discussion.

The book is printed (photocopied is a better term) on coarse photocopy paper. Whilst POD causes no problems with black text, it is very critical on getting sharply resoluted and streak-free halftone illustrations. We see it again in this particular publication. The worst of all is the quality of the numerous b/w sketches, most of them are simply unusable. I carefully scanned and attached a typical - not selected! - sample (M 101) to show the printing "quality" of them. (Scanned using a Canon CanoScan 8800F.) The attached gray-scale scan shows exactly the "quality" that the buyer gets. Dull, gray, stars hardly discernible, M 101 in the center nearly invisible. A sad joke.
So my word to Springer is: Big SHAME on you for distributing such a POD-junk at 39,95 Euros (= 50,25 USD!). This junk copy goes back to Amazon right tomorrow.

Richard, I do not know if American customers get the same copy as we here in Europe. My copy says on last page in small prints: "Printed in Great Britain by Amazon.co.uk, Ltd., Marston Gate". Do you have an identical copy, or is yours printed by someone else?

And my word to Rony: You did a FINE work, but it urgently needs a reprint by someone who still knows the essentials of the printing business. I would buy again your book at any time, if carefully printed by someone else than Springer/Amazon.
Thanks so far for your endeavours, Rony!

Stephan

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#14 rodelaet

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 12:07 PM

Stephan,

I'm very sorry to hear that the quality of your sample is not as it should. The copies that I received from Springer at the launch of the book, as well as all the items I ordered myself, all arrived in excellent shape, on fine shiny quality paper, and the illustrations all showed plenty of contrast and color. I ordered my items via the Springer website. I was not aware of the fact that Amazon does POD for Springer books, nor of the fact that it resulted in such a poor quality! I checked the samples here at home, but they don't show in small type where they are printed? I am very embarrassed by this incident. You should receive the quality that you payed for. Unfortunately I'm not involved in the quality of the print. I will however report this to my editor at Springer and I'll keep you posted about it.

Clear skies,

#15 Stellarfire

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 12:22 PM

Rony,

I just sent a PM to you.

Stephan

#16 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 06:45 PM

Hi Stephan,

Sorry to hear of your printing problems with the book. My book is not a POD version at all. My sister got this book from Amazon.com and it is very well printed. I have never received a POD book from Amazon.com USA and I have ordered 100's of books from them over the years.

Most (if not all) of the POD books (Amazon.com USA) I have seen are clearly labeled as such and I do not order those. I'd rather find an out of print edition than chance a POD edition, just my :penny: :penny:.

I read Rony's reply to my mini review and wanted to clarify a couple of things. I am sure some readers were amused by my use of the book in my driveway and I guess I should explain it. IMHO, any guide book must pass muster at the scope or at the very least on your observing table: like a great guide book should lay flat, do the finder maps show up under a dim red light?, paper reflect the red/white light too much?. These are some of the questions I "test" out in my driveway on guide books and atlases. :) I would like to see The Casual Sky Observer's Guide bound like the Pocket Sky Atlas or Binocular Highlights.

My copy of The Casual Sky Observer’s Guide does not have any problem with the printing.

I said previously:

Now sometimes they are so subtle you may need to dim the lights to see how delicate they are. I'm not saying the images are bad, but some are delicate like the Crab, M1, in Fig. 14.7.


I went back through the book sketch by sketch and found only one more that I deem delicate Fig. 12.3 NGC 7293 The Helix. Both of these objects are visible but the actual Helix is very light which is as Rony saw it. For me all I did was move my reading light a bit farther away to see it better. None of the sketches or illustrations used in the book were like the image posted by Stephan in my book.

Rony I hope I have your permission to post this page from your book if not I will gladly remove it.

Here is page 156, Fig. 7.4, Messier 101, The Pinwheel Galaxy from Rony's book:

Posted Image

Scanned using an Epson Perfection 2450 Photo scanner into Photoshop CS2.

One more thing I have no financial interest or connection to Rony at all other than the brotherhood of loving the night sky, then guilty as charged. :)

peace & clear skies

#17 Stellarfire

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 08:05 AM

Hi Richard,

Thank you for sharing a scan of your copy, showing again M 101. There are WORLDS between both samples. Apparently, Springer/Amazon is distributing copies with extremely different printing quality.

Do you see on bottom of last text page any indications who printed it? Without indications, I would guess that your copy was printed by Springer itself.

I would be nothing else than HAPPY with a copy printed like yours.


Stephan

#18 turtle86

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 09:12 AM

Here is Rony's website My Binocular Sketches. The largest binocular he uses is 15x70. In some circles this is a giant binocular. Others, however, reserve the label giant binoculars for something like 25x100.

Regarding Rony's book. Yes, it is definitely worth the price. Purchase it as soon as possible.


Those sketches on his web site are wonderful. I especially enjoyed the ones of Comet Holmes. I also looked at the book preview on Amazon. Not a lot of observing guides out there with sketches, especially ones this good. I generally find sketches more useful than images for observing. Looks like a great buy.

#19 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 04:02 PM

Stephan asked:

Do you see on bottom of last text page any indications who printed it?


Stephan, I didn't mean to ignore your question about the "text on the last page". No there is no text at the bottom of the last page indicating who printed it. I never really worry about this because I assume it's the publisher from the copyright page, Springer in this case.

peace & clear skies

#20 Stellarfire

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 10:55 AM

Thanks to the intervention of Rony, I got today, September 04, delivered from Springer Germany another copy of this publication. It is much better printed than the first one as previously reported (see my post of August 28 in this thread). Despite the fact that this second copy is not offset- but POD-printed too, there is no comparison between both copies.
On last page, I found the note "Printed by Printforce, The Netherlands". Just allow me a note on them. Printforce BV is a supplier to major international publishers, and does not use the offset printing process, but modern print-on-demand (POD) technology. POD is so-called digital printing, which is a computer-to-print method, using a digitally controlled printer like a laser printer. Apparently, Printforce uses for their orders an Océ ColorStream 10000 Flex, a continuous feed digital color printer.

Anyway, better paper (even if quite thin, about 65g/m2), and an enhanced printing quality of this copy is obvious. Comparing the scan of page 156 with faint M 101, it now resembles more to the scan as provided above by Richard H. (Carl Kolchak), but is still less detailed. I ask myself if Richard has a first-run copy, printed by Springer itself?

The book contains in total 160 illustrations, of whom 70 are attractively and realistically looking b/w wide-field eyepiece sketches.
The binocular observing program is organized by months, each month presents 6-9 deep-sky objects, accompanied by color finder charts and the mentioned b/w eyepiece sketches.
With regard to these b/w sketches, I fully share the author's opinion on page 54:

"The sketches in this book represent the author's personal visual impressions of deep-sky objects with various binoculars and small telescopes. Skteches are a better way than photographs for showing in a very subtle way what deep-sky objects look like in the eyepiece of the observer. When you just take a quick look at the sketches, not all the features will jump directly to the eye. You'll have to study the sketches if you want to see all the details, just like a real eyepiece".

Apart from the mentioned printing issues, I am quite happy with this basic guide. It contains good, condensed and well-illustrated informations in a very compact and handy size. It makes a fine companion to any casual sky observer, equipped with a binocular or a small telescope. Just protect the quite thin and delicate pages from dew.

Thank you again, Rony, for your kind support in getting an acceptable copy! :like:

To all: In consequence of the bad experience made on first order, anyone interested in purchasing this book is well advised to place the order directly at Springer, not through Amazon.


Stephan

#21 BobinKy

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 12:14 PM

The Casual Sky Observer's Guide arrived today from Amazon.com USA. I have long awaited this book, as I enjoy binocular observing. I am also collecting several binocular guides to use with my grandchildren when they get older.

Well. . . page 156 in the copy I received from Amazon.com USA is somewhere between the quality reported by Carl Kohlchak (the good) and the quality reported by Stellarfire (the not-so-good). The page in my copy is definitely not as good as illustrated above by Carl, and not near the quality on Rony's website. Actually, the page in my copy is closer to that illustrated by Stellarfire (the not-so-good).

The pages are not thin and shiny, but thick and dull. It appears I may have received one of the print-on-demand copies warned by Stellarfire. However, I could not find anything indicating that the copy is a print-on-demand--either in the book, on the cover, or on the Amazon.com USA website.

My remedy will be to return the copy to Amazon.com USA and order a copy direct from Springer. I hope the Springer copy will be better.

#22 Stellarfire

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 01:18 PM

My remedy will be to return the copy to Amazon.com USA and order a copy direct from Springer. I hope the Springer copy will be better.



Too bad that you made a negative experience too. Hopefully your Springer copy will be better.

Apparently the quality control needs to be improved. Tell Springer about your unpleasing experience, they depend upon our feedbacks for improving the quality control with their suppliers.

At that price, the buyer should expect and get a flawlessly printed copy of Rony's great work.

In view of Rony's attractive eyepiece sketches with their very subtle details, I wish Springer would have chosen the proven offset printing process, instead doing it by POD through several of their suppliers.

Stephan

#23 drollere

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:28 AM

i don't own and don't plan to buy this book, but i want to salute rony's effort to serve the novice/occasional niche in the astronomy literature.

my first comment is that springer has been aggressively pursuing the opportunities opened by the use of modern book production technology in order to exploit niche interest markets by niche "experts" in specific fields.

"aggressive" explains a lot of lapses, including the print quality of different supply chain printers -- and the editorial failure (and failure among readers here) to notice the misprint "observed with observed with" in the caption of the figure reproduced twice in the posts above. profit motive means cutting corners at several points in the production process.

the second point is that springer books have hasty or misleading lapses in the content as well, which results from a combination of editorial indifference or overwork (the caption lapse) and author confusion.

thus rony says that supernovae are "inappropriately" named as "new stars" when in fact the term originates with kepler and his observation of a "nova stella" in the celestial sphere that aristotle said was immutable. the paragraph "mutliple stars" opens this way:

Multiple Stars

Many stars appear to have an optical companion when observed in binoculars or telescopes. Some stars just happen to lie in the same line of sight without being physically related. Other optical double or triple stars are truly bound by gravity.


the term optical is technical, and refers only to stars not bound by gravity; using the term to describe bound systems is incorrect. the term double is used to describe paired bound stars; the correct term is binary, a second error. the paragraph caption multiple star is an incorrect substitution for the correct term "double star", which applies to all visual star groupings -- optical or physical, binary or multiple, up to a small star cluster. three errors in three sentences is a poor average, and it suggests that the author can wander without warning into false information. in the age of wikipedia, this is just something every reader needs to be aware of.

my last comment is that wide field binocular astronomy is (in my opinion) the best way to understand our place within the galaxy, the basic landmarks of galaxy structure (spiral arms, star forming regions, etc.), galactic distances, and so on. in that respect i think rony's book is a huge advance over the crossen/tirion "binocular astronomy", a book i admire a lot. rony has clearly made a focused effort to present the galaxy whole, and all the separate observing targets as located in the whole and as markers of the distance and direction of galactic and intergalactic structure. if you are not aware of these basic astronomical facts, then that is sufficient reason to own this book.

#24 BobinKy

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 10:39 AM

. . . wide field binocular astronomy is (in my opinion) the best way to understand our place within the galaxy, the basic landmarks of galaxy structure (spiral arms, star forming regions, etc.), galactic distances, and so on. In that respect i think rony's book is a huge advance over the crossen/tirion "binocular astronomy", a book i admire a lot. rony has clearly made a focused effort to present the galaxy whole, and all the separate observing targets as located in the whole and as markers of the distance and direction of galactic and intergalactic structure. if you are not aware of these basic astronomical facts, then that is sufficient reason to own this book.

...drollere



I agree that Rony's book is quite unique for the reasons you mentioned. And when you consider the advantage of his binocular sketches compared to nonbinocular photographic images found in many observing guides--his book becomes a gem that is one of a kind.

#25 rodelaet

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 04:34 PM

Bruce and Bob,

I know that I am not without fault. English is not my mother tongue, but the third language that I speak. Sometimes, things get lost in translation. I used the term 'multiple' in the sense of 'more than one'. The term 'optical' has confusingly been used as a synonym for 'visual' or even 'apparent'. I plead guilty.

I appreciate the kind words that you write about the objectives that I tried to accomplish with this book. You clearly got the message. And that is what really counts for me. :)

Clear skies,






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