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Crossen's Binocular Astronomy - 1st Impressions

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 06:04 PM

Hi all,

This afternoon Craig Crossen's (and Wil Tirion's) Binocular Astronomy arrived in the mail. After spending ten minutes trying to get it out of Wilmann-Bell's packaging :grin:, I set down to read it.

I like this book. (Wow, that was easy... :lol:)

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Craig's writing knows he excels at giving context, both historical context and astrophysical significance. For me this greatly adds to the enjoyment of the book.

I've already had several "I didn't know that!" moments just reading the chapter on the autumn constellations. Craig also doesn't shy away from the southern constellations, which are often ignored in other books. In fact, he approaches them from what you can see binocular-wise from mid North American latitudes. I also like how Craig finds something interesting to look at, even in areas seemingly devoid of interesting objects....even if it's a color contrast, Craig makes a note of it. Good fun.

One thing that caught my eye is that the charts in the book -- both at the end and interspaced throughout the text -- are very, very crisp, probably a combination of Tirion's cartography and the paper used.

I look forward to reading more of the book. It definately will help give both focus and depth to my previously quasi-random sweeping of the skies.

#2 DavidNealMinnick

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 10:30 PM

Recently realizing I did not obtain this title's first edition (recommended by Crossen over the second edition), I obtained a like-new copy this week, and have read just a few pages, thus far. I have his "Sky Vistas" also, which is thoroughly enjoyable.


#3 Michael Rapp

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 11:28 PM

That is very interesting.... I wonder why he would recommend a previous edition over the current one? Craig...you out there?

Chapters 6 and 7 of Binocular Astronomy really set the book apart from other binocular guides. Chapter 6 is very similar to Craig's recent S&T articles and really gives you a great galactic orientation. I've never thought about objects in terms of their galactic coordinates, but Craig makes it easy.

Chapter 7 is a concise guide to what galaxies one can see with binoculars. It's nice to have that information all in one place.

#4 rookie

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 08:25 AM

That is very interesting.... I wonder why he would recommend a previous edition over the current one? Craig...you out there?

There have been a some posts and threads about this topic over the past few years. Here is the original explanation from a 2008 CN Archive Thread:
Binocular Astronomy 2nd Edition

#5 Michael Rapp

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 11:05 AM

Wow. I don't know what to say. I had no idea, none at all.

I feel cheated.

(Of course, I suppose Craig feels quite a bit more cheated than me!)

I bought this book under two assumptions that generally one can make about astronomy books and books published by Willmann-Bell: that a second edition is revised and more up-to-date than the previous edition, and that the thing is not ghost-written.

It is frustrating to realize that words that I assumed were Craig's are not his at all. It is horrific to realize that with as little money as authors get in niche publishing markets for astronomy as it is that Craig will not receive a single cent from my purchase of this book.

#6 Michael Rapp

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 11:36 AM

Quick update - I found a 2010 post by Craig that he did indeed (finally) receive a small royalty check for the 2nd edition.

It is so frustrating to now realize that my favorite parts of the book, which I thought were up to date are actually based on pre-Hubble astrophysics. Well heck. Can I get the last 24 hours of my life back?

And while I'm feeling annoyed with Willmann-Bell, I guess this does confirm something that has bothered me for years about them. They clearly advertise books are the horrendously out of date as essentially current titles. (Mostly in the imaging category, such as Observing and Photographing the Solar System and Introduction to Webcam Astrophotography.)

Still, that is mostly obscuration....they just don't list the initial publication dates; they aren't overtly misrepresenting the age of the book. However, with Binocular Astronomy, they've taken the old text, republished it and are marketing it as a Second Edition, with all the connotations of a revised edition. Even the back of the book says that Craig updated the book himself!

I'd send the book back, but I've already thrown the packaging material and sales slip away, plus, I just don't want to deal with it.

And, I suppose the age of the text does have some value for me. I've recently been re-reading some books and observing guides that I used when I first got interested in astronomy in the early 1990s, to remind me of the state of visual astronomy at that time. I guess Craig's book fits in perfectly here. :crazy:

#7 rookie

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 02:44 PM

There is a lot of fine information in this book that is timeless and can be appreciated.

#8 Crow Haven

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 03:39 PM

There is a lot of fine information in this book that is timeless and can be appreciated.


I second this. I have a USA 1992 First English Edition which I bought when I had a membership in The Astronomy Book Club back then. It still has value for me today. I also love my copy of Sky Vistas and consider it essential, it was worth all the effort to get a copy. The publishing story for the 2nd ed. of Binocular Astronomy is just mind-boggling!
---Maya

#9 Rick Woods

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 05:42 PM

I also have the first edition (1992). I've passed on the second edition specifically because of how W-B treated Mr. Crossen. (But I haven't been able to pony up for Sky Vistas yet. Too rich for my blood - sorry, Craig!)

#10 davidpitre

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 11:56 PM

I'm sorry Rick. Sky Vistas is one of the very best observing books written. Sort of in a class by itself.

#11 turtle86

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 11:41 AM

I'm sorry Rick. Sky Vistas is one of the very best observing books written. Sort of in a class by itself.


+1 If I could only keep 10 of my astronomy books, Sky Vistas would be one of them. Well worth the money IMHO.

#12 Crossen

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Posted 13 November 2013 - 05:23 PM

I also love my copy of Sky Vistas and consider it essential, it was worth all the effort to get a copy.
---Maya


Thanks for the kind words about "Sky Vistas." Researching it and writing it were labors of love, and I'm glad that I got something of that communicated to readers.

The problems with the 2nd edition of "Binocular Astronomy" were pretty thoroughly covered in the thread cited by Rookie. I have not seen a copy of this 2nd edition, so I was not aware that it claims that I was involved in its production. I was not. I did have some MSS sitting at Willmann-Bell--two of which they had refused to publish several years before--but if they drew anything from those texts and incorporated it into their 2nd edition of "Binocular Astronomy", they did so without my knowledge and consent. In any case those MSS themselves were significantly out of date by 2007 and therefore I must assume that this 2nd edition is especially badly out of date in its constellation history material, in the Milky Way chapter (Chapter 6), and in some of the hard astrophysical data.

Craig Crossen






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