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#1 lcaldero

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 02:06 PM

What do you recommend for a good reference work? Burnham's, Night Sky Observer's Guide? Anything else? I am not that into the history of constellations; would like to learn more about the objects from the observing and scientific POV. Trying to find these two in a library to sample before buying with no luck so far.

I tend to observe with a small list of targets and a general plan to observe in a small area of the sky or constellation(s). I find my targets then sweep and find some beautiful objects which I can't always identify (Am I alone in that?.) I like read more about the constellation after viewing for the night (and to try to identify the objects I am not sure of). I suppose I could characterize myself as an intermediate beginner. The beginner's works that I have (Nightwatch, Turn Left, O'Meara, etc) don't help in that second stage post-viewing.

Thanks, Laura

#2 RocketScientist

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 06:49 PM

Burnham's is definitely not about the history of the constellations. It's a list of major objects in each constellation along with a general description of the physical characteristics of that object. The focus is definitely on the astrophysics, not stories about the constellations. It will cover the spectral classes, variable stars, globulars, etc., including their history (for example, M31 discusses the history of novae in the galaxy) and their physical makeup (stellar class, distances, size, light curves for variables, finder charts for faint variables, etc.)

For example, the Andromeda section covers Gamma (double), Delta (double), Zeta (variable, double), Lambda (variable), Omicron (variable), Pi (triple), Omega (double), 36 (double), Struve 215 (variable, double), R (variable), Z (variable), RX (variable), GRB 34 (red dwarf binary), M31, NGC 752, NGC 891, and NGC 7662. It provides an orbital digram of the double 36 Andromedae showing roughly what the separation will be in a given year, a detailed light curve for R,Z, and RX Andromedae and for Cepheid variables in M31 (!), and finder charts for these faint variables and for GRB 34.

However, it will not discuss every object, or even every major object. It is not a total "atlas of the sky with descriptions".

Frankly, even as an "intermediate beginner", I think you may find that Burnhams is overwhelming, provides too much detail and doesn't help you observe. I would hold off until you are more "intermediate-to-advanced".

Better choices might be Sue French's "Small Scope Sampler" or her "Deep Sky Wonders", or Peterson's "Field Guide to the Stars and Planets". I assume that you already have a good atlas like a Sky Atlas 2000 or a Pocket Sky Atlas.

If you can tell me more about how and what you observe, Laura, what your telescope is, what some of the objects you've looked at are, etc. maybe I can be of more help. My own astro library is, uh, space-consuming. :grin:

Cathy

#3 izar187

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 08:40 PM

Another definite yes votes for Sue French's guides.

But I would cast a yes vote for Burnham's too. Because it has tables with data, of the different types of targets, per constellation. This can be incredibly helpful when first going into deeper sky. Compliments SA2000 well for this application also.

#4 Rick Woods

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 08:53 PM

The Uranometria 2000.0/Deep Sky Field Guide set, and the Sky Atlas 2000.0/Sky Atlas Companion set, will help with locating and identifying a lot of stuff.

You can often find a full set of Burnham's in a god used book store like Bookman's. That set is a no-brainer; everyone should have one. Just get one, and thank me later. :D

#5 obrazell

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 02:24 AM

Also almost anything about the science in Burnhams is very dated. It is best treated as a historical work.

Owen

#6 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 07:05 AM

Burnham's is definitely not about the history of the constellations. It's a list of major objects in each constellation along with a general description of the physical characteristics of that object. The focus is definitely on the astrophysics, not stories about the constellations.


I do not agree. The constellations are discussed in detail from a historical and cultural point of view under the description of each constellation's Alpha star. Much of this information comes from Richard Hinckley Allen's Star Names -- a fascinating though deeply flawed book. But Burnham also includes many references to more recent culture, such as Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and other science-fiction writers.

I do agree that far more pages are devoted to the science of the objects than their history. But the extraordinary combination of diverse viewpoints is what makes this book so irreplaceable.

#7 turtle86

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 10:24 AM

Burnham's is definitely not about the history of the constellations. It's a list of major objects in each constellation along with a general description of the physical characteristics of that object. The focus is definitely on the astrophysics, not stories about the constellations. It will cover the spectral classes, variable stars, globulars, etc., including their history (for example, M31 discusses the history of novae in the galaxy) and their physical makeup (stellar class, distances, size, light curves for variables, finder charts for faint variables, etc.)

For example, the Andromeda section covers Gamma (double), Delta (double), Zeta (variable, double), Lambda (variable), Omicron (variable), Pi (triple), Omega (double), 36 (double), Struve 215 (variable, double), R (variable), Z (variable), RX (variable), GRB 34 (red dwarf binary), M31, NGC 752, NGC 891, and NGC 7662. It provides an orbital digram of the double 36 Andromedae showing roughly what the separation will be in a given year, a detailed light curve for R,Z, and RX Andromedae and for Cepheid variables in M31 (!), and finder charts for these faint variables and for GRB 34.

However, it will not discuss every object, or even every major object. It is not a total "atlas of the sky with descriptions".

Frankly, even as an "intermediate beginner", I think you may find that Burnhams is overwhelming, provides too much detail and doesn't help you observe. I would hold off until you are more "intermediate-to-advanced".

Better choices might be Sue French's "Small Scope Sampler" or her "Deep Sky Wonders", or Peterson's "Field Guide to the Stars and Planets". I assume that you already have a good atlas like a Sky Atlas 2000 or a Pocket Sky Atlas.

If you can tell me more about how and what you observe, Laura, what your telescope is, what some of the objects you've looked at are, etc. maybe I can be of more help. My own astro library is, uh, space-consuming. :grin:

Cathy


Another vote for Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders. Just might be the best one-volume observing guide out there. Well worth the $25 or so it goes for on Amazon.

#8 blb

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 11:30 AM

But I would cast a yes vote for Burnham's too. Because it has tables with data,...


But that data in now over fifty years old. You will need to look up more curent information if you are using Burnhams.

I do agree that far more pages are devoted to the science of the objects than their history. But the extraordinary combination of diverse viewpoints is what makes this book so irreplaceable.


Yes, but that science of objects is also now over fifty years old too. How much has our knowledge advanced in the last 50 years?

Please don't get me wrong, Burnhams is a great read that includes a great list of objects to view but a lot of the data in those charts are out dated. The coordinates are 1950 and as such are only close to there current R.A. and Dec., the magnitudes are based on blue photographic magnitudes and not visual magnitudes, the names for many of the double stars are not what they are curently known as, etc., etc. Still though every one should get a copy of the three volumes and read them but they are not an observers guide. Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders or Small Scope Sampler along with something like S&T's Pocket Sky Atlas will be a great start into deep sky observing. Sue does not spend 70% of her book covering double and variable stars like Burnhams. At some point you should get a copy of Burnhams but I would not start with that.

You said that you have O'Meara book, which one? O'Meara's books are a great reference and list of deep sky objects to view. All four of his deep sky observing guides and the Herschel 400 guide are great for a more intermediat observer. I would highly recommend those books too.

#9 CounterWeight

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 02:58 PM

I'd look at observing reference as a sepirate thing from scientific reference, and both as sepirate from historical. Sure there are some that include all in some way or another, and some that are more on the first two or entirely on the first.

I wouldn't overlook magazines like Sky & Telescope or Astronomy.

Then there are reference and survey and journals of the science behind the science, hypothesis behind the theory - how we test them and what with. This why behind the what can be endless, many with their own jargon and 'maths'. All are fascinating, just depends on how deep the waters you want to dive into.

It's possible to spend some serious coin, or library checkout / interlibrary loan without unwanted duplication, and all bring something meaningful to the party. I think at some level it becomes a question of the amount of possible information and how to organize it. Some by type(s)/class of object, some by list membership, some by location, some by apeture.

Like many I grew up with Burnhams (for the current 'used' price and what it contains still IMO unequaled as a single author work) and over time have added a volume or set of books at intervals. The Night Sky observers Guide vols 1-3 is organized somewhat like Burnhams but different enough to be actually different and worthwhile. The RAC Observers Handbook another well intentioned book. The books by Steve O'Meara and Sue French aslo deserve a good look.

There are many others with some organizing principle behind them, and I suppose could be called guilty of one type of omission or shortcoming - but was it an authors intention of the book in the first place is a meaningful question.


Though not asked directly, I think it's really difficult to put up anything against something like SkyTools3 or TheSkyX for depth and breadth of inclusion, they are very different software packages in important ways.

#10 GeneT

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 03:40 PM

Help the economy and buy several of the posted books. :grin: They are all quite good.

#11 Tony Flanders

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 04:04 PM

Yes, but that science of objects is also now over fifty years old too. How much has our knowledge advanced in the last 50 years?


Less than you might think. Cosmology has changed greatly within that period, but the basic astrophysics of stars -- the bulk of what Burnham discusses -- was quite well understood 50 years ago. Surprisingly little of his scientific discussions are out of date.

Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders or Small Scope Sampler along with something like S&T's Pocket Sky Atlas will be a great start into deep sky observing.


I certainly won't argue with that! Like Burnham, Sue has a judicious mix of culture, science, and observing; she's fantastically knowledgeable on all three fronts. But with Sue French, the observing is front and center -- science and culture are brought in when appropriate. With Burnham, science is strongest -- it's a passably good though eccentric introduction to the science of deep-sky astronomy -- and observing is the weakest.

#12 RocketScientist

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 08:08 PM

The constellations are discussed in detail [by Burnham's] from a historical and cultural point of view under the description of each constellation's Alpha star.


Fair point, Tony. I hadn't realized how much of that he'd put in the book. However, I stand by my statement (which you seem to agree with) that that is not the majority of the book.

#13 RocketScientist

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 08:10 PM

With Sue French, the observing is front and center -- science and culture are brought in when appropriate. With Burnham, science is strongest...and observing is the weakest.


:goodjob:

Bingo! Well said, Tony.

#14 droid

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 11:03 PM

I have to disagree, one of my first book collections was Burhams. I love his style, his " speaking to the common man approach " and his historical info.
I can and have spent many rainy days and nights just reading them.
Sue Frenches book is awesome, got to buy another one though, I used it one night at the scope, it was soaked by nights end.And unthinkingly I closed it up and packed it.Several weeks later when I needed it, it was like the pages were glued together.
The OP also asked for other reference works...so just a few off the top Im sure others will chime in with more:

The year round Messier Marathon by Harvard Penningon
Star Watch by Phil Harrington
Discover the Moon by Lacroux and Legrand
Astronomical sketching by Handy -Moody-Perez - Rix and Robbins all I belive members here at CN
The Messier Objects by O'Meara (yes I know she listed O'Meara, but I didnt see a book title , so if you have this Laura I aplegize,).

#15 lcaldero

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 06:55 AM

Thanks everyone. I am glad I posted, I hadn't thought of Sue French's works for my current needs though I love her columns in S&T. I ordered Burnham's since I am most interested in a reference work. Cathy, I don't expect any work to have everything. For example, Peter Birren's Objects in the Heavens lists about 25 objects in Canis Major. My only "reference" work, Illustrated Guide to Astronomical Wonders discusses about 9 objects in Canis Major, and I am hoping Burnham's 3 volumes will cover more objects in greater detail. I also read his bio in Wikipedia -- what a story.

My next purchase will be Sue French's Deep Sky Wonders.

#16 CounterWeight

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 11:07 AM

Glad to hear you are getting Burnhams!

One thing I neglected to mention. Though I rarely see them mentioned here, The Webb Deep-Sky Society used to publish some very handy and inexpensive topical guides, doubles, planetary, clusters, though I'm unsure if they are still in print or only available used... their website is here.

#17 Mike E.

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 03:06 PM


The "Observing Handbook And Catalog Of Deep Sky Objects"
by Christian B. Luginbuhl & Brian A. Skiff
ISBN 0 521 25665 8

An excelent reference with information and descriptions of more than 2000 galaxies, star clusters and nebula.

#18 lcaldero

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 08:43 PM

I received my copy of Burnham's today. It's exactly what I was looking for. I will be checking out the other recommendations over the newt few months.

Thanks to all.

Laura

#19 Daniel Mounsey

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:08 PM

You made a great choice!

#20 LivingNDixie

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 11:18 AM

Glad you got a set of Burnhams. I am in the process of getting my Astro Book library down to 100 books that will fit on my shelves and I am getting rid of set. They are nice for historical reasons, but I just find myself going to NSOG. That is not to say Burnhams is bad or anything.

#21 LivingNDixie

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 11:19 AM

The "Observing Handbook And Catalog Of Deep Sky Objects"
by Christian B. Luginbuhl & Brian A. Skiff
ISBN 0 521 25665 8

An excelent reference with information and descriptions of more than 2000 galaxies, star clusters and nebula.


Great book. :)

#22 amicus sidera

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 04:43 PM

With Burnham, science is strongest -- it's a passably good though eccentric introduction to the science of deep-sky astronomy -- and observing is the weakest.


I'd say that most of us who picked up Burnham's when it first came out already knew how to observe quite well; it was those so-called "eccentric" shades of color that Burnham painted with which made his work timeless.

#23 Tony Flanders

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:07 PM

It was those so-called "eccentric" shades of color that Burnham painted with which made his work timeless.


I won't argue with that!






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